Credit: GPB's Lawmakers

Students from the Savannah area who rode to Atlanta to testify about a bill restricting discussions on race in school had their chance to speak Tuesday, although not how they had hoped.

Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) and Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) organized a press conference inside the Capitol in response to the students not getting the chance to testify before the Senate Committee on Education and Youth on Monday afternoon.

During the Monday hearing on House Bill 1084, which would prohibit the teaching of "divisive concepts," including race in schools, Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), the committee chair, told the students there was no time for comment.

Parent, also a Senate Education and Youth Committee member, objected.

"The actions of this committee directly impact the education that they can receive," Parent said. "They drove hours to tell the committee their stories. We will not let them be silenced."

At today's press conference, Parent said, "Yesterday in the Senate Education and Youth committee, HB 1084, another bill attempting to censor education, was heard. The dozen people who came to speak against the bill were denied the opportunity to tell the committee members their views on a matter directly impacting them. The group was largely made up of students."

One student, Madeleine Pelli, a high school senior, held up a copy of the testimony she had planned to give.

"This was my testimony," Pelli said. "It wasn't much, but I couldn't wait to put my thoughts and considerations on the committee floor to at least be heard."

Students gained direct experience opposing an issue using their voices. 

"This is your house," Nguyen told the group. "The Capitol is the people's house, and you should feel empowered to be here, and empowered to be heard."