The House Education Committee signed off Thursday on a bill barring public schools and universities from requiring their employees to participate in implicit bias training.
Implicit bias training are programs aimed at having people recognize potential inherit and unconscious biases they may have against people from a different race, ethnicity, religion or gender.
House Bill 1559 by Rep. Mindy McAlindon, R-Centerton, is a preemptive measure against a practice that is popular among some human resource departments across the country, McAlindon said.
The bill moves to the House for action.
During a committee meeting Thursday, Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, asked McAlindon, "Is this a problem in very many of our schools in Arkansas?"
[DOCUMENT: Read the bill targeting implicit-bias training » arkansasonline.com/317hb1559/]
"It is not," McAlindon said in response to Fite's question. "I have anecdotal evidence of people saying that they've attended trainings that have implicit bias in it that they've been uncomfortable with."
McAlindon, a first-term member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, said a recent study showed implicit bias training "while well-meaning, does not lead to meaningful change and can actually lead to an increase in anger and frustration."
If passed, school employees can walk out of any training program that they believe includes implicit bias components without punishment. However, they could still be obligated to make up for the hours of training missed.
McAlindon also amended the bill, after meeting with the Arkansas Education Association, to state that school employees "shall have no recourse" for being exposed to implicit bias training by their employer.
"Teachers are teaching because they love kids, and they love helping them learn," McAlindon said. "All this bill is asking is that we be sure the trainings continue to focus on helping teachers be the best teachers they can be."
In 2021, the General Assembly approved a bill banning state training programs that may have included the "propagation of divisive concepts." The law, Act 1100, is applied to numerous state agencies but exempted public schools and universities.
The bill, sponsored by former state Sen. Trent Garner, became law without then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson's signature, who said at the time "it addresses a problem that does not exist."