MADISON — ACLU of Wisconsin Attorney Elisabeth Lambert testified in Madison before the Senate and Assembly committees on Education today in opposition to Senate Bill 411 and Assembly Bill 411, bills that would severely narrow the scope of what racial history and education subjects are allowed to be taught in Wisconsin schools.

Wisconsin state law says that Wisconsin school districts must provide educational programs that allow students to have “an appreciation of different value systems and cultures” at all grade levels, yet these bills would significantly limit the scope of racial education that teachers would be able to teach students, even going so far as to punish schools that teach racial topics that are forbidden by the bill.

“Senate Bill 411 is a disservice to students and an affront to democratic values. With its vague, wide-ranging list of prohibited concepts, this bill strategically misrepresents historical and social scholarship in order to demonize educators and intimidate them out of teaching complete, complex versions of what the standards require,” Elisabeth Lambert testified Wednesday. 

“Districts are doing the brave and necessary work of examining and correcting [racial] disparities — as they must, under state and federal civil rights laws. To do this work well requires clear-eyed, uncomfortable discussions of race. To inhibit and punish such discussions, as this bill will almost certainly do, strips districts of their most essential tools for addressing inequality and consigns students of color to unequal educational opportunity in Wisconsin for another generation.