OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A video pulled from one of Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters’ classes that was posted on his YouTube channel, shows him teaching a lesson on school segregation and its effects on young black children.
In the video, Walters said that during Brown v Board of Education, a psychologist took the stand to explain an experiment that demonstrated the social ramifications of legal racial segregation.
“They brought in some studies that showed young Black kids in segregated schools wanted white dolls, and when they asked them why, they said well because they’re better,” Walters said to his virtual class.
KFOR spoke to Walters about what many are saying is a double-standard – the support for teaching history that highlights racial injustices, but the prohibiting of concepts that teach that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”
House Bill 1775 lists eight concepts that are banned from teaching lessons, and the one named above is first on the list.
Walters said his lesson did not violate the law because of its intent.
“You can’t tell them that because of the color of their skin, they’re inferior or superior to other races,” said Walters. “The teaching of real history is absolutely encouraged.”
Walters is in a run-off election for State Superintendent.
His opponent in the Republican race is April Grace, Superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools.
“Ryan’s not going to think he violated it. I mean, it’s pure hypocrisy because that is exactly the things that teachers are expressing concern about,” said Grace.
Grace watched the video of Walters and said that the history – no matter how painful it is – is important to teach, but because of House Bill 1775’s language, a complaint could be made based on that particular subject.
“Seems to send the message that white was better than black and the black children could feel that way, and so I think it could easily be misconstrued that way,” said Grace.
In July, Mustang and Tulsa Public Schools were penalized for violating HB 1775.
Ryan Walters supported the State School Board’s decision to downgrade both district’s accreditation.
“They were pushing an ideology rather than Oklahoma academic standards,” said Walters. “It was telling students to feel a certain way and instructing faculty to tell students to feel a certain way.”
State Representative John Waldron was a teacher in Tulsa Public Schools for 20 years. He agreed with the way Walters taught his class, but said the spite aimed at public school teachers has been fed by how the education secretary treats them.
“Ryan Walters is right. He was not indoctrinating. Neither are any of the teachers in our public schools today,” said Waldron. “Secretary Walters owes them a little more respect than he’s showing right now.”
The state lawmaker said House Bill 1775 leaves too much open for interpretation, leaving teachers worried.
“[House Bill] 1775 empowers the complainant to determine that whatever it was, made them feel guilty,” said Waldron. “It allows a lot of bad actors to make complaints that make the teacher’s job impossible.”