ATLANTA – The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted unanimously Thursday to delete “woke” words including “equity” and “inclusion” from the state’s teacher preparation rules.
Along with “diversity,” a word the commission voted last month to delete from the preparation standards, the changes were requested by the University System of Georgia to clarify expectations for incoming teachers, commission Chairman Brian Sirmans said. Such words have come to mean different things to different people in recent years and have made interpreting them difficult, Sirmans said he was told by university system officials.
The changes are not aimed at reducing educational opportunities for minority students in Georgia, Sirmans said before Thursday’s vote.
“We still expect to prepare educators who are well prepared to meet the needs of all of the students they encounter,” he said.
But teachers, parents and civil rights activists who spoke during a public comment period said deleting those words will leave incoming teachers unprepared for the diverse mix of students they will see in their classrooms.
“To blatantly remove all references to diversity, equity and inclusion is just horrible,” said Aireane Montgomery, president and CEO of Georgia Educators for Equity & Justice. “To erase diversity, equity and inclusion is to ignore and minimize marginalized communities.”
Jonathan Campos with the Intercultural Development Research Association compared the rules changes to “some of the darkest periods in history” when Hispanic children were not allowed to speak Spanish in school and it was illegal to teach enslaved children to read.
Other speakers argued the rules changes will strike a blow at the morale of minority teachers in Georgia and prompt many to leave the profession.