Bill restricting race theory teaching headed to Governor’s desk despite objections from educators and others

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It has been a back and forth bill. This morning, House Bill 1775 which prohibits certain race theory from being thought in schools was on the Governor’s desk. This afternoon, it was back on the House Floor because of a technical problem.

It’s a bill that originally concerned medical care at school sports events.

That bill was gutted.

Now, it’s a bill that restricts what topics and theories on race can be taught in schools.

Today, members of the State House of Representatives making an extra push to get it on the Governor’s desk.

“Rules are made to be broken, suspended or ignored if they don’t fit with what needs to be done in their eyes,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City.

The bill passed late last Thursday but only after members voted to suspend a House rule that a changed bill must be germane to the original legislation.

Reportedly, a vote was cast for an absent representative to reach the number needed to suspend the rule.

So another vote was taken to get HB1775 to the Governor’s desk.

“In an attempt to make sure that the paper trail was accurate as this bill that was prioritized quite a bit makes it way downstairs, they wanted to make sure that it was all copasetic,” said Bennett.

HB1775 is a bill that its author claims addresses a growing problem in schools.

“What we are saying is that you cannot teach a child that they are themselves racist just because of the color of their skin,” said Sen. David Bullard.

The Republican from Durant, himself a former history teacher, drafted the reworked bill. He says it would prevent concepts like critical race theory from being taught, but actual historical events involving race would still be covered.

Bullard saying, “This is talking about the actual idea of furthering racism by saying that you are automatically or inherently racist just because of the color of your skin which has been false in 1860 and it’s false now.”

But opponents claim it’s a move in the wrong direction.

“The critical thinking around how things happen to keep them from happening again is so important to our history and so important to young people to understand,” said Sen. Kevin Matthews.

The Democrat from Tulsa is on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. He says this bill is a slap in the face as it comes in the first year that Oklahoma schools were required to teach about the atrocity. 

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Some educators agree.

“Our state in the year of the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre is saying that we don’t want others to feel bad,” said Cecilia Robinson-Woods, Milwood Superintendent of Schools.

“We want them to teach what happened in 1921 in its entirety. But in order to teach that, you do not have to teach students that they are themselves racist because they are white,” said Bullard.

On Monday, a letter sent out by the Head of the GOP in Oklahoma asking Republicans to contact the Governor to make sure he signs the bill into law saying

“House Bill 1775 is on Governor Stitt’s desk, and it is imperative that he signs it into law. We must ensure that children are not indoctrinated by dangerous leftist ideologies such as Critical Race Theory and historically inaccurate garbage such as the 1619 Project in our state’s public school system. This attack on our nation’s values and heritage by radical leftists will continue until we put our foot down – this bill does just that. Contact Governor Stitt and let him know that Oklahomans are putting our collective foot down and protecting our children!”

We went to the GOP offices for comment. They declined our request for an interview.

Sen. Bullard says 18 other states are introducing similar legislation.

As of right now, there’s been no word from the Governor’s office on whether he will sign or veto the bill. Governor Stitt sits on the Board of Commissioners for the 1921 Centennial Commission.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel also sent a statement to News 4 in response to the bill.

“HB 1775 appears to be a solution looking for a problem which does not exist.  OKCPS follows the guidance of OSDE, teaching the state-determined Oklahoma Academic Standards using state-approved curriculum resources. We believe it is important that we continue to learn both about and from our past in order to build an enlightened and resilient future.

As we do this, OKCPS will continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive learning and work environment. We stand firmly by our Vision for Equity Board Policy and remain “committed to creating, building, and sustaining an environment that embraces racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity and that provides equitable access to a high standard of educational success for all students with the intention of closing achievement gaps, particularly for student groups with the greatest academic needs in the district.

We have teachers across the district who we trust to make decisions — sometimes life and death decisions — on behalf of our students each and every day. Surely we can continue to trust our educators to guide these difficult yet necessary conversations with our students inside of their classrooms. OKCPS strongly encourages Governor Stitt to veto HB 1775.”

Dr. Sean McDaniel

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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