Education , Family & Community

Ray Carter | May 7, 2021

Stitt signs ban on racist teaching

Ray Carter

Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a bill that prohibits public schools from teaching children that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”

“Now more than ever, we need policies that bring us together, not rip us apart,” Stitt said in a video statement posted online. “And as governor, I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex. That is what this bill upholds for public education.”

House Bill 1775, by Rep. Kevin West and Sen. David Bullard, bans K-12 schools from requiring or making part of a course any material that declares “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

It includes several similar provisions, such as banning instruction that tells children an individual “should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.” It also prohibits public schools from teaching that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”

The legislation also prohibits Oklahoma colleges from requiring students to “engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling” and bans any “orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex.”

Opponents and critics of the bill included the Oklahoma PTA, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, and officials at the University of Oklahoma. In several instances, critics argued HB 1775’s ban on teaching racial superiority would mean schools could not teach about many historic events.

Stitt noted the legislation only bars advocacy of racism, and explicitly endorses teaching about the racial challenges seen throughout the history of Oklahoma and the United States.

In his statement, Stitt explicitly read several prohibitions contained in the bill, and noted the legislation states the law “shall not prohibit the teaching of concepts that align to the Oklahoma Academic Standards.”

“We must keep teaching history in all of its complexities, and encourage honest and tough conversations about our past,” Stitt said. “Nothing in this bill prevents or discourages those conversations. In fact, this bill clearly endorses teaching to the Oklahoma Academic Standards, which were written by Oklahoma educators and include events like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Tulsa Race Massacre, the emergence of Black Wall Street, Oklahoma City lunch-counter sit-ins led by Clara Luper, and the Trail of Tears. We can and should teach this history without labelling a young child as an ‘oppressor,’ or requiring (that) he or she feel guilt or shame based on their race or sex. I refuse to tolerate otherwise.

"As governor, I will not stand for publicly funded K-12 schools training impressionable minds to define themselves by their sex or their race.” — Gov. Kevin Stitt

“During a time when we are already so polarized, we cannot revert to 100-year-old thinking that a person is any less valuable, or inherently racist, by the color of their skin,” Stitt continued. “Martin Luther King spoke of a day when people in America would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. House Bill 1775 codifies that concept that so many of us believe in our hearts, including me. And as governor, I will not stand for publicly funded K-12 schools training impressionable minds to define themselves by their sex or their race.”

HB 1755 is one of several bills filed in states across the nation banning the use of “critical race theory” in public schools. Critics say critical race theory has promoted racial division and discrimination.

The bills’ authors hailed the signing of HB 1775 in a press release.

“Already, this harmful indoctrination has infiltrated Oklahoma schools from as early as pre-kindergarten classrooms all the way through college courses,” said West, R-Moore. “Some of our state universities currently are requiring this mandatory training for their freshman students.”

“Critical Race Theory is poison to the minds of students and promotes racism rather than ending it,” said Bullard, a Durant Republican who was a teacher for 15 years. “It is robbing our society of shining stars, so needed in our culture today.”

He called the bill’s enactment “a declaration of Oklahoma’s independence against false teaching, pushing back against those who would divide us. I will not stop fighting until our students are free of this indoctrination.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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