At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick looks at the current wave of sue-the-teacher bills and related tactics as a tool for keeping kids in the right-wing bubble. At best (from the right-wing perspective) we trash secular education and replace it with religious indoctrination; at worst, it keeps the parents’ kids from ever being exposed to stuff contrary to their parents. Whether it’s that America has a horrible history of racism and misogyny or that the Holocaust was an unspeakable atrocity, they’d rather cut off exposure. Maybe as many people have suggested, because they’re scared shitless of their kids learning that racism is bad.
It used to be the states just imposed rules on what could be discussed. You know, like all sex-ed must be abstinence only, even though it’s documented that doesn’t work. Or not only banning discussion of LGBTQ in class but requiring schools out gay kids to their parents (and it was a bad bill even without that amendment) Or the unvirtuous Ohio group Center for Christian Virtue insisting that teaching about sexual abuse emphasize abstinence and not make parents look untrustworthy (and parents should be able to keep kids out of those classes. Hmm, who would want to keep kids from learning sexual abuse is a crime?).
But there are other variations, outside schools, like a Florida bill letting businesses sue local government if they don’t like the ordinances, freezing enforcement for 90 days and with up to $50,000 in damages. Multiple businesses could sue if they think the ordinance is “arbitrary” or “unreasonable.” Another bill would also bar diversity or harassment training that makes employees uncomfortable. And the offended individual could sue (“He said my behavior upset my secretary and he wanted me to attend training! I am deeply offended by the implication grabbing her boobs was harassment!”).
Of course there’s no guarantee the plaintiff would win in any of these cases, but the purpose here is fear. A lot of law is hard to define precisely but these bills go out of their way to be vague and broad. And because the people who take action will not be state officials there’s no way to predict who will sue over what. The only way to be safe is to avoid anything controversial like the plague. Which means nothing that challenges the white male Christian-dominated status quo. I’m sure they’re a lot less bothered by a teacher in a Tennessee public school who told his students how to torture a Jew.
Which is how Republicans want it. Just as the elected officials who advocate running over protesters are suddenly very, very concerned about the rights of protesters when they’re on the “right” side. And confident, I’m sure that the Trump courts will throw any lawsuits from the wrong people claiming the same rights. Or the West Virginia students forced to attend an evangelical sermon on school time.