The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Monday voted to approve emergency rules that would suspend the teaching licenses of teachers who promote discriminatory elements of critical race and gender theories.
The board meeting was meant to provide specific and formal guidance that would help schools navigate the upcoming 2021–22 academic year, in the wake of a new law that bans the teaching that one race is superior to another, or that an individual is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive” because of one’s race or sex.
The new law, which was previously known as House Bill 1775, also prohibits K-12 educators in Oklahoma from teaching that an individual should experience guilt or distress because of their race or sex; that an individual’s moral character is determined by their race or sex; or that the concepts of meritocracy or hard work ethic were “created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”
The emergency rules outlined what schools need to do in order to avoid violating the new law. Specifically, the schools are not allowed to provide or contract individuals or organizations that provide courses or training programs that include or are based on those discriminatory concepts. They are also prohibited from utilizing textbooks, curricula, classroom assignments, or any other instructional materials that include or incorporate those ideas.
As for penalties for a school’s failure to comply with the new requirements, the emergency rules stated that any violation will “at a minimum,” result in the school’s state accreditation status being downgraded to “Accredited With Deficiency.” A school failing to correct such deficiencies will lose accreditation in the third year of noncompliance.
In addition, the new rules would grant the Oklahoma State Department of Education the authority to decide whether to initiate proceedings to suspend the license or certificate of any public school employee who is found in violation of the new law.
The rules also affirm that parents in the state have the right to “inspect curriculum, instructional materials, classroom assignments, and lesson plans to ensure compliance,” and that “no public school shall interfere with or infringe upon the fundamental rights of parents to determine their child’s education.”
Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said in a statement that it welcomed the education board’s effort to clarify the new regulations.
“We believe this should clear up some confusion and gives Oklahoma’s educators the confidence to continue teaching as they have been since the standards were adopted,” said Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association. “We hope clarity on this topic will allow educators the time to focus on the needs of students as we all go back to school this fall.”