Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories attempting to look at issues surrounding education.
A group of more than 400 local Facebook users is weighing into a debate over local education and what’s being taught students in Bryan County. The group Forward Coalition sent out the press release Monday, saying in an email “we stand firmly against any untruth being spread into our community.”
It continued: “Recent actions intended to disrupt our Board of Education meetings and sow misinformation about Bryan County school curriculums have driven the Forward Coalition, along with a group of like-minded parents, grandparents, and former educators, to create the School Action Committee,” the release said.
“The Forward Coalition and its School Action Committee stand in solidarity with our Board of Education, school administrators, and teachers in validating the right of every child to feel safe, valued, and welcomed in Bryan County School District regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and gender expression.”
The Forward Coalition founder and president, Adrienne Jackson, said the group consists of “various residents, community members, business owners and professionals throughout Bryan County.” She said Forward Coalition’s mission is a grassroots effort “to uplift, mobilize and connect, the Black, Indigenous, People of Color and marginalized communities across the rural and sub urban landscape of Bryan County. We believe in creating the community we desire and need through leadership, civic engagement, political participation, community partnerships and advocacy.”
Curriculum in Bryan County Schools has become a focal point recently. The establishment of a local chapter of the Atlanta-based group Truth in Education, an advocacy group “founded to educate parents and legislators on the radical ideologies being taught in our schools,” has sparked debate on social media and prompted Tamara Huff, a Richmond Hill parent of three, to form School Action Committee.
Huff, an engineer, is a member of Waterfront Church, where she went Jan. 31 to see a movie called The Mind Polluters being shown by TIE.
“I wanted to see what it was all about,” said Huff, who added she came away from that meeting dismayed.
“One thing that was concerning for me was they equated comprehensive sex education with grooming children for sexual abuse, but comprehensive sex education is not a part of Georgia standards and isn’t being taught in Bryan County Schools. A lot of the things they focused on aren’t being taught in Bryan County.”
Huff said much of the local group’s energy seemed directed at efforts to remove books from school libraries if they included LBGTQ content as well as blocking the teaching of critical race theory in Bryan County Schools -- something school officials say is not happening.
Huff also said her experiences with teachers and administrators runs counter to that described by TIE members.
“They said they want to be able to go into schools and observe what’s being taught, they said teachers aren’t having parent teacher counseling sessions anymore,” Huff said. “I pointed out that wasn’t true. I’ve been able to meet with any of my children’s teachers whenever I requested. I’ve never been denied that opportunity, even these last two years with COVID.”
According to Forward Coalition, the Student Action Committee “will work alongside our local Board of Education to ensure that our schools are not censoring learning opportunities, but instead promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion for all students,” according to the Forward Action Press Release.
“We stand with our school administrators and teachers to base curriculum decisions on facts, not innuendo or personal agenda, and support their flexibility in always working with parents and students across a wide range of special needs and requests.” The release continued; “We strongly condemn attempts to bring misinformation, mistruths, and political agendas into our schoolrooms. Bryan County offers a rich learning environment for its students and the School Action Committee stands ready to respond to attempts and demands that historical facts and truth are disregarded in favor of personal opinions.”
Truth In Education’s local co-directors, Betsy DeBry and Lisa Freeman, have been critical of Bryan County Schools mask policies and question curriculum being taught locally.
They have letters to the editor in today’s Bryan County News.