Georgia board strips the word 'diverse' from teacher training rules

Students in the second grade Dual Language Immersion program at Benteen Elementary School listen and respond to their teacher during a vocabulary lesson. (Kaitlin Kolarik/For WABE)

The Georgia Professional Standards Board has unanimously voted to remove mention of diversity from rules that cover teacher training programs. 

The board is appointed by the governor and handles certifications for teachers, librarians and counselors. They also set standards for teacher training programs.

The new rules, for example, replace the phrase “diverse students” with “all students” and use the word “different” instead of “diverse.”

Board Chair Brian Sirmans, who is an assistant principal in South Georgia, said the University of Georgia System asked the board to simplify or remove words that have in recent years taken on multiple or unintended meanings.

“We replaced them with commonly understood terms,” Sirmans said. “We still expect educator preparation programs to prepare educators who are well-equipped to address the learning needs of all students that they may encounter.” 

But some educators, such as former elementary school teacher Tracey Nance, see this move as part of a broader, partisan push to strip diversity, equity and inclusion from education.

“Our state and our students are more diverse than ever before,” Nance said at a press conference following the vote.“I cannot imagine thinking that teachers should go into a classroom not having an understanding of how important their students’ identities are and how to be inclusive of those identities as we teach.”  

Last year, Republican lawmakers moved to restrict how race is taught in Georgia classrooms. In a letter this year, Lieutenant Gov. Burt Jones asked University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue for a detailed accounting of DEI programs.

The new rules take effect in June.