Correction: This story originally reported that Rep. Sherrie Conley is the author of House Bill 1775. Conley is actually one of the bill’s co-authors.
EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – There is growing concern about the consequences a teacher might face if they are the reason their district received a lower accreditation status because of violations to House Bill 1775.
Teachers don’t want to lose their jobs because they are teaching lessons designed by the state of Oklahoma.
State academic standards require high school students to learn about the “causes of the Tulsa Race Riot [Massacre] and its continued social and economic impact.”
It even requires students to learn about other massacres related to Native tribes in Oklahoma.
These lessons seemingly contradict HB 1775, also known as the anti-CRT law.
The bill states, in part, that school courses can’t make any individual “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
Rep. Sherrie Conley, a co-author of the bill, did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week, the State School Board voted to lower the accreditation status of both Mustang and Tulsa Public Schools. The Board’s reasoning had to do with violations to HB 1775.
Levi Patrick spent nearly a decade at the Oklahoma Office of Curriculum and Instruction. He was Assistant Superintendent for three years. Patrick said the school districts are in charge of disciplinary action towards their educators.
“The question of how a school implements these rules from a local administrative policy where they’re dealing with the disciplinary action plan for their staff will certainly vary,” said Patrick, explaining that there is no universal action plan.
In the case of Mustang Schools, the district said they had addressed the situation internally.
Patrick said that is the case in most scenarios, but with HB 1775, the situation could be escalated.
“I think that school districts try to get this right. But the fear, frankly, is that if one individual can make a mistake, not only will that individual be held accountable, but now the entire district and therefore the community is held accountable for one individual’s mistake,” said Patrick.
KFOR reached out to Oklahoma City Public Schools to ask about teacher’s job security as it relates to House Bill 1775, but they declined a request for comment.
Recent retirees worry for teachers that face these policy challenges.
“I feel sorry for my colleagues that are having to teach this way this year because they are terrified,” said Kim Harrison, a retired teacher that spent 21 years covering English.
Harrison said historical events were incorporated into her lessons on literature.
“The whole context for me was to teach the kids about Jim Crow laws and how it affected people in the South, including Oklahoma,” said Harrison.
She was referring to To Kill A Mockingbird, a book that was one of her favorites.
Throughout her 21 years, she said there was rich discussion between Black and White students.
Harrison said Black students didn’t appreciate the use of the “N-word,” but were more understanding once the historical context was given. She agreed with the students that the word is inappropriate and offensive, however the 1930s, she explained, had racist laws that perpetuated discrimination.
When it came to White students, she wanted to make sure they knew this history existed.
“I think they needed to know how far race relations have come since the 1930s,” said Harrison.
The former teacher cares deeply about history, and wants all students to face the discomfort of a past that is not perfect.
“History is not clean. It’s not always nice, but we need to know it so we don’t continue to repeat that,” said Harrison.
Harrison also taught her classes another book, The Crucible. It’s about the Salem witch trials, but also about political witch hunts.
“It was also a criticism of McCarthysim in the 1950s,” said Harrison. “And I feel like in a way, teachers are kind of being put in that same position now.
“We’re being accused unjustly and unfairly, and nobody’s listening to us, and I think that they need to listen to us or talk to us.”