LINCOLN — A Nebraska state senator introduced a bill Thursday aimed at limiting education on subject matter commonly referred to by conservatives as “critical race theory.”
State Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil introduced Legislative Bill 374, dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act.” It was one of 84 bills introduced in the Nebraska Legislature Thursday.
Murman, a Republican farmer, was elected last week to be chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee, replacing Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, a Democrat and former teacher. Last year, Murman led a Republican effort calling for a probe into the State Department of Education over an alleged promotion of critical race theory through the department’s website.
The bill Murman introduced Thursday would expand parents’ opportunities to challenge schools about learning materials they consider inappropriate.
Though the words “critical race theory” were not included in the bill, the bill uses language frequently used by conservative advocates to describe critical race theory. Although that description often doesn’t line up with the official definition of the term.
One part of the bill prohibits instruction that promotes that members of a specific race are “inherently inferior or superior,” or “bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race.”
“(The bill) won’t allow racism to be taught in schools,” Murman said.
The official definition of critical race theory defines it as an academic concept based on the idea that racism is a social construct embedded in the nation’s legal systems and policies, rather than stemming from individual prejudice. The concept is most commonly taught in law schools, not K-12 schools.
Murman claimed that critical race theory is taught in Nebraska’s public schools, though he refrained from describing it as a “prominent” issue. He declined to give any specific examples.
LB 374 shares similarities with another bill, LB 71, which was introduced last week and was co-signed by Murman. The bill would require that public schools disclose instructional materials to parents and allow parents to request that their child be excused from certain lessons or activities.
Murman said LB 374 is a broader version of the other bill. It would require schools adopt a policy giving parents access to review all learning materials the school uses, and give parents an opportunity to object and withdraw their students from lessons or activities in which materials are used that conflict with the “parent’s firmly held beliefs, values, or principles.”
Many of the processes suggested in LB 374 are already in place in most public schools.
The bill outlines the right of a parent, student or teacher to sue their school if they believe the school has violated the bill’s regulations. Parents would also have the ability to submit a complaint to the Nebraska Department of Education if their school refuses to remove library content deemed inappropriate.
Other noteworthy bills Thursday included another Murman measure, which would prohibit individuals under 19 from attending drag shows, along with legislation to reduce maximum sentences for juvenile convictions and a bill expanding options for mail-in voting.
One bill that has yet to be introduced is an attempt to further restrict Nebraska’s abortion access. On Wednesday Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston announced her intent to introduce the bill, which would prohibit all abortions once embryonic cardiac activity can be detected — typically around six weeks past fertilization.
Here’s a roundup of the bills that did get introduced Thursday:
Drag shows: LB 371, also introduced by Murman, would prohibit individuals under 19 from attending drag shows. Jane Seu, ACLU of Nebraska legal and policy counsel, described the bill as “unconstitutional censorship” in an effort to silence members of the LGBTQ community. Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha has already introduced a motion to indefinitely postpone the bill.
Juvenile corrections: LB 339 would reduce maximum sentences for juvenile convictions, would protect the identities of juveniles prior to a criminal conviction, and would prohibit juveniles from being held out of state prior to their conviction. The bill’s introducer, Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha, called Nebraska’s current juvenile corrections system “horrible,” and said it contributes to the state’s ongoing prison overcrowding problem.
Mail-in voting: LB 365, introduced by Hunt, would allow all Nebraska counties to hold elections solely through mail-in votes, regardless of population. Some smaller counties already do this. Hunt’s bill directly conflicts with LB 228, introduced by Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard, which would effectively eliminate almost all mail-in voting in Nebraska.
Tax credits: LB 370, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would require that a red slip of paper be included with every tax statement notifying residents of available tax credits.
Pregnancy: LB 391 would provide criminal and civil immunity for individuals who end their pregnancy either intentionally or unintentionally. The bill’s introducer, Sen. Jen Day of Omaha, has opposed previous attempts to restrict abortion access in Nebraska.
Postpartum: LB 419 would extended the state’s Medicaid and Medicare postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months. Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 20 other state senators.
Teachers: LB 385, introduced by Linehan, would establish a State Department of Education grant with a $10 million cap in an effort to recruit and retain teachers. Teachers who apply would receive $5,000 under the bill. The Nebraska Department of Education reported that 14% of teacher positions across the state’s 143 school districts were unfilled during the 2021-22 school year.
LB 413, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would establish the “Interstate Teaching Mobility Compact,” which would help teachers maintain their licenses through multiple states.
Pheasants: LB 400 would establish the Nest Predator Bounty Program, adding a $10,000 bounty for badgers, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, red foxes and striped skunks harvested between March 1 and July 1 in an effort to protect Nebraska’s pheasant population. Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced the bill.
Israel: LB 343, introduced by Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, would prohibit public entities from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel, a likely reference to the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine.