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5 Things To Know: HB 324 Passes NC Senate, Would Restrict Lessons on Race in School

…and four more stories from Aug. 22-28, 2021

HB 324, school lessons on race
HB 324, a bill aimed at restricting school lessons on race and sex, passed through the N.C. Senate this week. (AdobeStock)

HB 324 Will Restrict School Lessons on Race, Sex

On Thursday morning the N.C. Senate passed House Bill 324 (HB 324), a bill that would restrict school lessons on race and sexism in the classroom. The bill is part of a sweeping response to so-called Critical Race Theory, as legislation across the country seeks to prohibit educators from tackling topics related to racism, sexism, white supremacy, diversity and equity with their students in their school lessons.

Titled “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools,” HB 324 would prohibit teachers from promoting 13 concepts, including the suggestion that America is racist or that people are inherently racist or sexist. It would also prohibit teaching that white people, or anyone else, are responsible for the actions of their forefathers.

One concept states that teachers cannot promote “that the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.” 

Opponents have called HB 324 an anti-education bill, an unnecessary response to widespread fear-mongering around Critical Race Theory. In a statement on Thursday, ACLU of NC executive director Chantal Stevens responded to the bill’s passage through the state senate and urged the N.C. House and/or Governor to stop it from becoming law. 

“Teachers guide their students through nuanced ideas daily, and this bill creates a chilling effect on what teachers feel empowered to discuss and limits our students’ ability to be fully engaged in how society addresses these issues. Rather than run from tough topics, we should be tackling them head-on. Our country would be better for it,” Stevens wrote. 

“Learning about white supremacy, discrimination, and countless other histories that have harmed women, Black and Brown people, and/or LGBTQ+ people empowers us to address ongoing disparities in our communities. Those advancing this bill, including Lieutenant Governor [Mark] Robinson and Senator Phil Berger, are stoking racial tensions, sowing division, and using a straw man to limit students’ educational experiences.” 


Delta Variant Sees Outbreaks in Jail, Cases in School

Children enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and many other area districts returned to the classroom this week, and it didn’t take long for COVID-19 concerns to become a reality. Less than 24 hours after CMS students reported to their first day on Wednesday, two schools reported COVID-19 cases, as reported by the Charlotte Observer.

Families of students at Myers Park High School and Community House Middle School were notified on Wednesday that both schools had someone test positive for COVID-19, meaning those who had been in close contact with either one of those people for 15 minutes or more would be contacted by school nurse personnel and could potentially need to quarantine.

If staff could determine that everyone involved was wearing masks throughout their interaction with the infected people, the contacted person would not need to quarantine. The parties who tested positive will not be able to return to school for 10 days after their positive test result.

According to a release from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, the Uptown detention center is seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases correlating to what’s been happening outside of its walls. As of Wednesday, there were 61 people incarcerated at the jail who have tested positive for COVID-19.

HB 324
Attorney Tim Emry spoke during a press conference calling for MCSO to release people incarcerated in the Uptown jail in light of the pandemic in March 2020. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Eleven housing units at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center – Central have been designated for respiratory isolation, for those who are positive, symptomatic, or deemed by medical providers to have  experienced a significant risk of exposure; while one housing unit has been designated for respiratory quarantine, for those with a known, but less significant exposure. One patient, an elderly incarcerated man with preexisting conditions, has been transported to the hospital for treatment. There were 1,530 total people incarcerated at the jail as of Wednesday.

According to MCSO, people entering into custody at the jail are screened for symptoms, issued a face covering, offered a COVID-19 vaccine if they are not fully vaccinated, and placed in a quarantine/isolation housing unit for 14 days, where they are monitored for symptoms before joining the general population.

Check the Mecklenburg County Public Health website for the most recent info about COVID-19 metrics among county residents.


Four Guns Found in Two Days at CMS Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recovered four guns, plus a BB gun, during three separate incidents at CMS high schools this week. 

“It’s been a very busy week for the first three days of school,” said Capt. Brian Sanders, who detailed the incidents during a press conference Friday.

The first incident occurred at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday at Mallard Creek High School. Sanders said a student pulled a necklace off another student and a struggle ensued. Shortly after, officers searched the student’s book bag and found a knife, stolen firearm and marijuana. He was charged with common law robbery, possession of controlled substance, possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a concealed weapon and two other felony weapons charges.

CMPD Capt. Brian Sanders speaking
CMPD Capt. Brian Sanders (Screenshot)

Meanwhile, around the same time Thursday at West Mecklenburg High School, a school resource officer received an anonymous tip about a student with a gun. Sanders said school administrators located the student and CMS staff searched his backpack. They found a BB gun that modeled a Glock 9 and he was charged with possession of a weapon at school.

The third firearm incident occurred at approximately 8:24 a.m. Friday at West Charlotte High School. Sanders said CMPD received a 911 call from a woman who said she saw three or four students with guns huddled around a car on school property. Sanders said officers responded and saw firearm accessories in plain sight, prompting them to search the car and recover three guns. The owner of the car, a student, was charged with possession of a weapon at school, possession of stolen goods, possession of a handgun by a minor, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. 


City Announces New Arts & Culture Officer

The City of Charlotte announced Friday that Priya Sircar will serve as the city’s first arts and culture officer. Sircar is the former director of arts for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where she oversaw Knight’s arts investments in and across the eight cities in which Knight has offices, including Charlotte.

HB 324
Priya Sincar (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

In her new role, Sircar will convene individual artists and creatives, arts organizations, community members, corporate and nonprofit partners, and elected officials to create a cultural plan for Charlotte.

“Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to know Charlotte as not only one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the United States, but also as one of the most creative,” said Sircar. “I am thrilled to work with this dynamic community on creating a new, comprehensive cultural plan that will serve current and future Charlotteans.”

The cultural plan will take a comprehensive look at Charlotte’s arts, culture and creative economy and ecosystem, and create a roadmap for future cultural programming, infrastructure and investment. A key goal of the plan is developing sustainable funding for arts and culture in Charlotte while maximizing the economic impact of this crucial sector.

In addition to overseeing the creation of the cultural plan, Sircar will serve as the city’s liaison to the Arts and Culture Advisory Board and provide recommendations to inform decision-making. The Arts and Culture Advisory Board is charged with determining the use and allocation of future arts funding in Charlotte. 


Homicide Total Reaches 65

Two people were killed by gun violence in the past week, bringing the total number of illegal killings in Charlotte this year to 65. At around 11:17 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, police responded to a shooting call on Brooksvale Street in west Charlotte and found 54-year-old Matthew Simmons dead of a gunshot wound. On Monday, police arrested a 28-year-old woman and charged her with Simmons’ murder. The suspects shares a last name with Simmons, though it’s unclear what relation they are to one another, if any. 

 

Just before 7 a.m. on Monday, police responded to a call for assistance from MEDIC on Tartan Court near East Mecklenburg High School in southeast Charlotte and found 21-year-old D’Andre McLean dead of a gunshot wound. On Thursday, police arrested a 25-year-old man whom they charged for McLean’s murder, which appears to have occurred during a robbery. 


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