Ray Carter | September 10, 2021

Anti-CRT rules approved for schools—again

Ray Carter

In a brief meeting that lasted only minutes, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Friday to approve agency regulations that allow enforcement of a new state law that bans the teaching of concepts associated with Marxist-derived Critical Race Theory.

It was the second time the board has approved those rules. Although the board approved rules at its July meeting, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister subsequently announced that staff at the Oklahoma State Department of Education had botched the draft and the rules could not take effect due to errors included in them.

House Bill 1775 banned Oklahoma’s K-12 schools from teaching several concepts associated with Critical Race Theory, including that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that an individual “should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex.”

The law took effect on July 1, but emergency regulations that provide for its enforcement had to also be approved by the State Board of Education.

The now twice-approved regulations ban schools from using materials that include any of the concepts banned by HB 1775, and they prohibit segregated classes, programs, training sessions, extracurricular activities, or affinity groups unless such groups are permitted by federal law.

Under the regulations, parents and legal guardians have the right “to inspect curriculum, instructional materials, classroom assignments, and lesson plans to ensure compliance” with HB 1775.

Under the regulations, school districts that fail to comply with HB 1775 can have their annual accreditation status downgraded and districts that do not address shortcomings for two years in a row can face the loss of accreditation, which would result in closure or annexation.

Teachers who commit any “willful violation” of HB 1775 could face loss of a teaching certificate, and any school employee who retaliates over the filing of a complaint could also face the loss of their teaching certificate or license. Teachers who file complaints against colleagues would be provided whistleblower protections.

The regulations also note, “Nothing in this rule shall be construed to prevent the teaching of history, social studies, English language arts, biology or any other subject matter area consistent with the Oklahoma Academic Standards as adopted and approved by the State Board of Education and approved by the Oklahoma Legislature.”

Critics of HB 1775 claimed teachers could not discuss slavery or the civil rights era if they were prohibited from teaching that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.” But supporters noted the law specifically allowed teaching on those topics, which are included in state standards.

When the board approved the first set of HB 1775 regulations at its July meeting, supporters of the new law far outnumbered detractors during the public-comment portion of the meeting. No public comments were made during the September special meeting.

A recent edition of the Sooner Survey revealed that 58 percent of Oklahoma registered voters who are familiar with Critical Race Theory oppose it being taught in public schools compared to only 30 percent who support its use. When Oklahoma voters were asked if children in elementary school should be taught that America is structurally racist and dominated by white supremacy, just 19 percent agreed with teaching those concepts.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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