OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s an educational topic that has the potential of becoming a new political flashpoint.

The classroom is generally a place where many students learn self-control and relationship skills. More educators are gaining a better understanding of how student behavior problems can stem from trauma in their homes.

One Oklahoma lawmaker, however, is filing legislation to remove social emotional learning from Oklahoma schools.

“We need to fight off attacks like this bill,” said retired 20-year teacher John Thompson. “But we need candid and constructive conversations.”

Social emotional learning is an educational approach to teaching children and adults. The teaching includes skills like conflict resolution and empathy.

Thompson called the bill frustrating.

“They’re not only attacking the greatest breakthrough in public education in the last decade or so, but they’re also attacking what made education great,” Thompson said.

The bill implies that schools need to zero in on reading, writing and math, and push aside classroom programs that incorporate a student’s behaviors, beliefs, or emotions.

The State Department of Education defines social emotional learning as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL and Prevention are proactive approaches for ALL students that are designed to promote positive behavior and school climate.”

“This is a time when we need that type of learning at time of the digital and all these other things,” Thompson said. “We need to teach students to learn how to learn, to manage their emotions.”

There’s been pushback elsewhere too. In early 2020, Idaho lawmakers said it was parent’s jobs and not schools to develop emotional coping skills and development.

However, Thompson said every teacher deals with things that require teaching outside “The Three Rs.”

“You need to ask the kids what they’re thinking,” Thompson said. “I need to ask them what they’re feeling. You need to have professional development.”

Social emotional learning isn’t in Oklahoma curriculum and isn’t a class of its own. Instead, the concept is more incorporated into any class depending on local priorities, cultures and needs.

Thompson said that it also teaches kids things they can take beyond the classroom.

“To try to learn how to learn and be a part of a community,” Thompson said.

Read the bill in full below:

Sb1442 Int by KFOR on Scribd

It should be noted that we did reach out to the author of the bill, Sen. Shane Jett. We were told he could not interview with KFOR Thursday due to being on deadline for that afternoon to file more bills for the upcoming legislative session.

We did send questions to him through email, however as of the time this story was posted, we did not hear back.