OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new bill that allows the Oklahoma State Department of Education to create a course on the Civil Rights Movement has been signed into law.
The course would cover, exclusively, the years 1954 – 1968, and it could be a stand-alone course or integrated into other classes.
Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore, is the author and said the goal is to educate more Oklahoma students about the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., emphasizing the Letters from Birmingham Jail.
“He goes through point by point by point — and if you haven’t read it you really need to read it –explaining why he’s doing what he’s doing. I think that’s a valuable lesson for today,” said Lepak.
House Bill 1397 states that other events, like genocide, can be added to the course work.
“The study of this material is a reaffirmation of the commitment of the people of this state to reject bigotry, to champion equal protection under the law as a foundational principle of our Republic, and to act in opposition to injustice wherever it may occur,” the measure states.
Earlier this week, House Bill 1397 was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“This bill focuses on how to discuss and resolve difficult issues and advocate for change in a non-violent way through the study of the principles that informed Dr. King. One of the universal lessons of the civil rights era is that hatred based on immutable characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, sex, religious belief, disability, or nationality, can lead to profound injustice in any nation or society. This coursework neatly fits within Oklahoma’s education standards and emphasizes freedom, perseverance, hope, justice, and conscience. I am optimistic that it will make a real difference, and I am grateful the governor recognized that by signing the bill into law,” Rep. Lepak said.
The provisions of the bill will go into effect on Nov. 1.