Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt Says He Overreacted To Breed Teaching

While Oklahoma educators have expressed concern about what they can teach about race and history due to a law banning certain concepts, Gov. Kevin Stitt said some are overreacting.

“People are kind of overreacting,” Stitt told The Oklahoman in an interview this week.

House Bill 1775, which was passed by Republican lawmakers last year and signed by Sittprohibits the teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another” and that “an individual, because of his race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive”.

Although the bill does not mention “critical race theory” by name, it has been defended by its supporters as a ban on the controversial academic theory which, at its core, teaches that racism goes beyond prejudice. personal and can be systemic.

After the State Board of Education recently voted to reduce the accreditation status of the Tulsa and Mustang school districtsteachers have expressed concern that seemingly standard lessons on race and culture are seen as a violation of the law.

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Stitt said he supports the state board’s recent action and does not view the punishment as too severe.

“I support the school board. … You have to obey the law,” Stitt said. “But here’s the thing, what did (the council) do? They just gave them a warning, a document that’s in a file, (that says) don’t do it again. It’s not the end of the world for these school districts.

Mustang Superintendent Says State Board Action Wasn’t Necessary

Superintendent of Public Schools Joy Hofmeister, left, speaks at an Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting in June 2021. DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN

In a letter sent to the state Board of Education this month, Mustang Superintendent Charles Bradley noted that there was no appeal process outlined in HB 1775, but he did requested a meeting with council members to discuss his district’s punishment.

Bradley said he was unaware that Mustang’s credentialing status was going to be discussed at last month’s board meeting and that the vote appeared to ignore the district’s swift action to remedy the situation.

“This was a singular isolated incident by a single employee, out of over 1,600 employees, which has now resulted in serious consequences for an entire district of over 13,000 students,” Bradley wrote. “I see no incentive for a school district to investigate issues and address them when that is the outcome.”

Mustang officials said the incident occurred when a student allegedly felt uncomfortable during a classroom activity that asked students if they had been discriminated against.

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HB 1775 States that a student should not experience “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or gender”.

The state board took tougher action than the state Department of Education recommended, voting on a reduced credentialing statute that brings additional state oversight and prepares the district for an even more severe penalty if another violation occurs.

“Accredited with warning is sufficient in this case because we have to send a message”, Board member Estela Hernandez, who voted in favor of reduced accreditation, said at last month’s meeting.

Oklahoma educators fear law will make teaching history harder

Proponents of HB 1775 said teachers shouldn’t worry about the law as long as they stick to state-approved courses.

“This bill clearly endorses teaching according to Oklahoma Academic Standards, which were written by Oklahoma educators,” Stitt said last year when he signed the bill.

But educators and school leaders said the message sent by the state Board of Education vote was concerning and there are concerns that teaching Oklahoma standards could still be construed as a violation of HB 1775.

Epic Charter School board member Wyjuana Montgomery gave an example of a new academic standard that requires schools to teach about the Holocaust in a way that develops a dialogue about the ramifications of bullying, bigotry , stereotypes and discrimination; and also encourages tolerance of diversity.

“Where I worry about our teachers, you have one (law) that tells you not to cause discomfort,” Montgomery said of HB 1775, at a recent board meeting. . “And then you have another telling you to develop a dialogue about bullying, bigotry, stereotyping and discrimination. All of those things can cause discomfort.

“I feel like a law was written from one angle and the Holocaust (politics) was written from another. But a teacher could get caught up in the web anyway.

Critical race theory has become a political target for many conservatives

Governor Kevin Stitt and his wife, Sarah, at the State Capitol on April 13, 2022. DOUG HOKE/THE OKLAHOMAN

HB 1775 stemmed from a growing political movement within conservative circles that argued that schools were indoctrinating children and that critical race theory, which is an academic theory over 40 years old, was causing white students to feel guilty.

While critical race theory and its concepts are not prohibited by HB 1775, supporters of the bill claimed the opposite.

Critical race theory includes a fundamental belief that systemic racism exists and that individuals, even if they do not personally embody prejudice against another race, can participate in this system and should consider the role they are playing.

In 2020, Stitt hosted a forum with his wifeSarah Stitt, who promoted the concepts of critical race theory.

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“What conversations should we have (with children), what should we teach them, what should we expose them to? Sarah Stitt asked the panel.

Herbert Cooper, the Oklahoma City People’s Church pastor, said it was important, especially for white people, to recognize “racial injustice”.

“We can’t be part of solving a problem if we don’t recognize it and I know that can be difficult for some people,” said Cooper, who is black. “I would say this to all of our white Oklahomans, not to put you on a guilt trip, not to make you feel bad, but so that we can come together to move forward.

“Something we all need to do is practice cultural humility…to realize that you come into a situation with a bias, with a perspective, and that oftentimes the person of a different skin color doesn’t have probably not the same bias and perspective. . What we need to do is practice the cultural humility to say my perspective is limited.”

“Amen,” replied Sarah Stitt.

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