MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – State Rep. Kevin West said the law he authored – House Bill 1775 – is not intended to block history lessons, but it does prevent lessons with the intent of forcing blame on students for past actions.
“It’s the concept that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, etc.,” said West. “If the lesson plan is designed to incite a certain feeling that’s what the bill addresses.”
Oklahoma Academic Standards require students to “examine multiple points of view regarding the evolution of race relations in Oklahoma.”
This includes the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws.
West talked about a situation in which class discussion breaks off from a lesson on the Tulsa Race Massacre. For example, if students began sharing their thoughts about the massacre, and one or some of the kids were uncomfortable with the content, that would not be a violation of the law.
“I think it would be very quickly determined that the curriculum wasn’t designed to do that,” said West.
The lawmaker said that eight teaching concepts were written into the law to be banned because parents were asking for it.
West did admit that complaints will be made, and then school districts will have to work through them case-by-case.
But as we saw last week, when Tulsa and Mustang Public Schools had their accreditation statuses lowered, the decision to penalize a school district will ultimately fall on the State School Board.
Levi Patrick, former Assistant Superintendent of the Curriculum and Instruction Office, spent nine years there, three of which were in that role.
He said the State School Board holds a lot of power.
“The local districts are kind of held hostage to the interpretation of a few at this moment,” said Patrick.
He said during his time, the Curriculum and Instruction Office never had enough complaints to warrant House Bill 1775.
Now he said the language of the law is too vague and teachers are not comfortable about this next school year.
“People are asking me on a regular occasion if they can even talk about the civil rights movement, about Martin Luther King,” said Patrick.
He doesn’t want students to feel shame deliberately from a lesson at school, but said hard discussions are necessary to learn about societal progress.
“Racism, land theft, genocide. These are parts of American history that our students need to understand because we want to overcome it,” said Patrick.