Oklahoma board approves rules banning certain race theories; Black Caucus responds

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FILE – In this May 25, 2021, file photo, a man holds up a sign against Critical Race Theory during a protest outside a Washoe County School District board meeting in Reno, Nev. Developed in the 1970s and ’80s, critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. It centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of whites. (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP/KNWA/KFTA) — Members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus responded on Wednesday following the Oklahoma State School Board’s vote to limit public educators’ ability to teach certain concepts about racism.

“Limiting the ability of Oklahoma teachers and students to have thoughtful conversations about race and diversity opens up the door for us to repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot place the comfort of a few over the lived experiences of people of color, who have no choice but to face the ugly truth of bias and discrimination.

“To the board members who are responsible for the education of our students, does your decision to implement these rules make it more or less likely that the next generation of Oklahomans will be prepared to navigate an increasingly multicultural society?”

Rep. Jason Lowe, OLBC Chair, D-OKC

“After seeing the support for Oklahoma’s Black community during the centennial commemoration of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I felt some hope that we might be progressing as a state toward true equity. 

“We cannot move forward until we better understand the past. This rule change is not only unnecessary but also dangerous. The children in our schools represent the state that we as adults are leaving behind. We should empower Oklahoma students to not repeat the atrocities that exist in history books and are still felt today but to end them. We start that process by teaching them why those atrocities exist. This rule hampers an educator’s ability to do that.” 

Rep. Monroe Nichols, OLBC Vice-Chair, D-Tulsa

“I am very pleased that the discussion about HB 1775 is occurring and we are providing a milieu to have the discussion. The press release from the OK Senate last week uses the life of Harriet Tubman with the conclusion that ‘we must challenge evil wherever it hides.’ Well, the idea of not teaching our history as it has been lived is an evil that will continue to harm us if we refuse to teach our children how we got to this point. It is worth mentioning that OKCPS leadership was not in support of HB1775.

“The decision by the Oklahoma Board of Education gives me great pause, as this is not the message we want to send to our educators. I am greatly disappointed that leadership has decided their only recourse is to swiftly coordinate some new rules to satisfy a few. As leaders, we know that a hurried response never garners the best outcomes.  Oklahoma is better than this.” 

Sen. George Young, Sr., D-OKC

“You can not legislate ‘feelings.’ This is a dangerous law and these concepts are not even being taught in any K-12 classroom course. Accurate, factual history regarding race and sex at times is uncomfortable, yet is worthy of learning. Some Republican legislators and some within the State Department of Education should not be a party to miseducation, nor stoking racial division.”

Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa

Public school teachers in Oklahoma could have their teaching licenses suspended for teaching certain concepts about racism under new rules approved by the State Board of Education.

The board voted on Monday to approve new emergency rules to comply with a bill approved by the Republican-led Legislature this year.

The new law prohibits teachers from teaching eight different concepts about race, including that an individual, by virtue of his or race or sex, is inherently racist.

The Republican authors of the bill said it targeted critical race theory, which is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism.

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