Gov. Stitt signs bill that restricts teaching of critical race theory in Oklahoma schools

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that restricts Oklahoma schools from teaching critical race theory.

Stitt announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he signed House Bill 1775 into law.

“As governor, I firmly believe that not one cent of tax payer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex,” Stitt said in a video he posted on Twitter.

Educators across Oklahoma denounced the bill.

The head of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board, Paula Lewis, tweeted that HB 1775 was “an outright racist and oppressive piece of legislation.”

Milwood Superintendent Cecilia Robinson-Woods said the bill was developed without the input of either educators or people of color.

Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, a supporter of the bill, previously said to KFOR that critical race theory teaches that there is a superior race.

“They cannot say that there is a superior race, so we are stopping the teaching of those things,” said Sen. David Bullard of Durant.

Photo goes with story
Professor Christopher Lehman

However, Christopher Lehman, an Edmond native, Oklahoma State University graduate and professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, said that critical race theory does not create division among students or say that one race is superior, but instead sheds light on racial discrimination.

“What critical race theory talks about are the policies and the law. The focus is on the discrimination itself and the hurt that discrimination caused those people,” said . “Critical race theory does not teach that people of different skin colors are better. When I teach it, I don’t focus on how people feel about other people of color. I focus on the actions that the laws and the policies prescribe.”

Alicia Andrews, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, told KFOR on Friday that critical race theory helps provide a more complete history of the black experience in the United States.

“Critical race theory says societal problems are influenced by what has happened in our nation’s history, and if we only tell the story on a slanted view, it’s not the full story,” Andrews said. “Let me tell you, my history, the history I was taught in school was ‘African Americans were slaves, Rosa Parks refused to get off the bus, Martin Luther King made a speech and everything was gravy.’ That’s not true history.”

Bullard, when he spoke to KFOR, claimed that critical race theory is unhealthy for race relations.

Lehman, however, said that is a fallacy.

“Teaching about critical race theory doesn’t promote the racial divide maybe any more than teaching what Hitler did promotes Nazism,” said Lehman.

The Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission issued the following statement expressing their disappointment in Stitt signing HB 1775 into law:

“We are extremely disappointed that Oklahoma Legislators, including Governor Stitt, chose to support HB1775 which diametrically opposes the work of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.

No matter how poorly written, the intention of the bill clearly aims to limit teaching the racial implications of America’s history. The bill serves no purpose than to fuel the racism and denial that afflicts our communities and our nation. It is a sad day and a stain on Oklahoma.

Despite this effort to squelch the truth-telling and discussion of our past… we will not be moved. We are more dedicated than ever to our mission and we will not accept the ill-conceived constraints that this law seeks to impose through misdirection and deception.

The fact that this bill becomes law 100 years after one of the worst acts of racial violence in our history will be noted throughout the world.

Intentions aside, it is important to note the bill language does not preclude the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre history curriculum being taught in schools or students taking field trips to Greenwood Rising. We look forward to welcoming many students into Greenwood Rising over the coming months and years — where we will continue to fight for reconciliation, truth-telling and racial healing.

As a fellow Commissioner we thought our Governor would do better; the Commission will have a special meeting Monday evening to discuss upcoming Centennial events and HB1775.”

TULSA RACE MASSACRE CENTENNIAL COMMISSION

Andrews issued the following statement soon after Stitt signed the bill into law:

“I am disappointed, yet not surprised that the Governor signed this dangerous, backward facing bill. This bill represents a fragility that Oklahoma cannot afford.

The arguments for this bill focused on the feelings of the descendents of victors and made no mention of inclusion. This bill will doom our young people if they choose to leave the state because they will have been subjected to limited history that has been watered down to protect the ‘feelings’ of our Republican legislators. What are they afraid of?”

ALICIA ANDREWS, CHAIRWOMAN, OKLAHOMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Critical race theory is taught at the University of Oklahoma, and OU administrators strongly opposed HB 1775. OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. released a statement Friday evening in response to Stitt signing the bill into law. A part of that statement is as follows:

“This new law prohibits higher education institutions in Oklahoma from requiring students to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling, and from instituting an orientation or requirement for students that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex. Although OU’s mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training does not espouse superiority of one race or sex, its mandatory nature is impacted by the passage of this law. To comply with the law, students may now choose to opt out of the training, though we will strongly encourage them to still take it. The training is one of the many elements that reinforce our belief that the development and preparation of the whole student takes a multi-faceted approach. OU employees – including student employees – are still required to complete the training, along with other necessary and essential employee trainings, such as sexual harassment and workplace safety.”

PRESIDENT JOSEPH HARROZ JR., UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel earlier this week released a statement, criticizing HB 1775, saying it is important that students “continue to learn both about and from our past in order to build an enlightened and resilient future.”

“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, OKLAHOMA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT

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

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