Schools, organizations, and lawmakers react to governor signing controversial bill

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Many organizations are reacting after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a controversial bill into law.

On Friday, he signed HB 1775, which restricts the teaching of critical race theory in the state.

“Now more than ever we need policies that bring us together, not rip us apart, and as governor I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define or divide young Oklahomans about their race or their sex,” Stitt said.

The bill says teachers aren’t allowed to teach that one race or sex is inherently superior to another.

It also says mandatory diversity training is not allowed, though it can still be done voluntarily.

Some lawmakers are disappointed with the passage of the bill, saying it’s important to be able to talk about racism.

“It was three years after I was born before my parents would be allowed to marry in states in the United States. It’s just unbelievable to me and the fact that 54 years later we are still having conversations about the problems of race is just unfathomable to me,” Rep. Andy Fugate (D-OKC) said.

OU released a statement that reads:

“In everything we do, we place the student and their experience first, crafting an intentional educational pathway that best equips them to enter society as leaders who understand the world around them and are able to navigate it with respect and dignity for all. That’s precisely the opportunity our diversity, equity, and inclusion training provides. While the university will comply with the new law, allowing students to opt out of the training, we sincerely hope students will elect to complete it.”

The university will also be adding general education courses addressing civil discourse.

Oklahoma City Public Schools says:

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.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs applauded the passage of the bill, saying:

“Passage of House Bill 1775 sends a signal nationwide that Oklahomans will not tolerate efforts that force children to submit to the Marxist and racist theology of critical race theory, which demands that we judge people by the color of their skin, hold them accountable for the actions of others, and impose psychological harm based only an individual’s genetics,” Small said. “Oklahoma taxpayers pour billions of state and local tax dollars into schools annually. State-sanctioned and state sponsored racism has no place in our schools, and HB 1775 is an important step in removing this poison from our culture.”

Others are worried about the implications.

“All we’re going to see is accusations by well-meaning parents,” Fugate said. “They just know these kids were talking about racism at school, and this will serve as a gag order on classroom and on conversations.”

Stitt says the bill doesn’t ban teaching historically significant events like the Tulsa Race Massacre.

“We must keep teaching history and all of its complexities and encourage honest and tough conversations about our past,” he said.

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