OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new bill passed through the House that would allow the Oklahoma State Department of Education to create a course on the Civil Rights Movement.

It 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.” – HB 1397

Democrats supported the idea, but didn’t feel comfortable giving State Superintendent Ryan Walters control over this type of curriculum.

“It is hard for me to support, putting the legacy of Dr. King in the hands of a race-baiting superintendent whose dog-whistle politics is ripping apart the state department of education. I think everybody agrees with that on this floor,” said Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa.

Walters did respond to the comments in a statement.

“I taught US history in public schools for 10 years. I have always enjoyed teaching about Martin Luther King Jr.’s enormous impact on our country. I will continue to advocate for our students to know American history.” – State Superintendent Ryan Walters

Democrat Regina Goodwin was concerned about the content that would be included in curriculum made by the Education Department.

“The State Superintendent says that he does not want to use the words culture or diversity or inclusion or equity in language,” said Goodwin.

Lapek didn’t share the concerns with Democrats. He considered this an opportunity for more conversation between people with different backgrounds.

“Using those examples from around the world, broadens the discussion,” said Lapek.

The bill narrowly beat the 51 vote threshold, passing 55-42.

It will now go to the Senate.