Rep. Mindy McAlindon (R-Centeron) successfully passed House Bill 1559 through the House Education Committee on Thursday. The bill would allow teachers to walk out of any training that they determine includes implicit bias, a situation that isn’t really a problem in Arkansas schools, McAlindon said.
“Implicit bias training — while well-meaning — does not lead to meaningful change, it can actually lead to an increase in anger and frustration,” she said citing an article from the Scientific American.
McAlindon didn’t mention that what she called a “study” is an 2020 opinion piece that first recognized how implicit bias is likely the reason that racial and ethnic disparities in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic ballooned. The anger and frustration that McAlindon referenced was actually based on how white employees have reacted to the training. The article also links to a separate piece by the Harvard Business Review that stated diversity policies are threatening white men.
The Scientific American article closed with stating that people shouldn’t give up on trying to understand implicit bias or training to reduce discrimination.
Rep. Denise Garner (D-Fayetteville) was the only heard opponent of the bill.
McAlindon’s bill would also ensure that the school administrators couldn’t “take adverse action against an employee” — likely meaning that they couldn’t be fired — for walking out on a training session. Directly from the bill, here’s how it describes the training:
“Implicit bias training” means a training or educational program designed to expose an individual to biases that the training’s or educational program’s developer or designer presumes the individual to unconsciously or unintentionally possess that predispose the individual to be unfairly prejudiced in favor of or against a thing, person, or group to adjust the individual’s pattern of thinking in order to eliminate the individual’s unconscious or unintentional bias or prejudice.
McAlindon said that Gov. Sarah Sanders‘s office and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are “comfortable with the bill.” It would apply to public and charter schools, as well as state-supported higher education.
According to the National Institutions of Health, implicit bias occurs automatically and is unintentional. It impacts judgements and behaviors and can be a barrier to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. An online NIH course about implicit bias — a training that teachers would be free to walk out of under McAlindon’s bill — states that there are different types of bias included under the umbrella of implicit bias. The course describes stereotyping, blind spots that would hinder self awareness and ways people favor beliefs that are similar to their own.
McAlindon’s bill will head to the full House next.