The state Board of Education’s decision to lower the accreditation of Tulsa public schools for implicit bias training programs is now being cited in a federal lawsuit challenging state laws designed to limit the teaching of subjects related to race and gender.
In a supplementary opinion filed Monday in the Oklahoma City-based U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, attorneys for the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under the law argue that the impact facing the Tulsa region is Example of how vague the law can be used to stifle protected speech.
Citing the Oklahoma Department of Education’s Office of General Counsel’s decision to classify an August 2021 professional development conference on implicit bias as a violation of House Bill 1775, and the Oklahoma State Board of Education’s subsequent vote to penalize TPS Certification. .
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“In short, as the actions of the Board and OSDE have attested, the only thing that is clear or direct about this bill is its message to school districts and teachers: to avoid any discussion that could be interpreted as racial or biased that is offensive or offensive. Risk of losing your certification status or teaching license,” the document said.
The lawsuit, filed in October, claims HB 1775 violates the First and 14th Amendments, is vague, overbroad and racially unconstitutional, and has a chilling effect on lesson plans. In addition to an injunction blocking enforcement, the lawsuit seeks to declare HB 1775 unconstitutional.
In the lawsuit, lawyers point out that some school districts have removed from their curriculum multiple books by women and minority authors, including Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why I’m in a Cage, Birds Sing” and Lorraine Hansbury’s “Raisins in the Sun.”
The lawsuit also claims that the district has told teachers to avoid certain discussion topics and phrases in class, including “white privilege” and “diversity,” in order to comply with the new law.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Tulsa Public Schools was not a party to the lawsuit, and the draft agenda released Monday for the regular school board meeting did not mention it. A spokeswoman did not respond by deadline to whether the district was considering joining the lawsuit.
In addition to the NAACP’s Oklahoma conference, the plaintiffs include two public school teachers from Edmond and Millwood, Oklahoma City, a high school student, University of Oklahoma The Black Emergency Response Team, along with the American Indian Movement and the American Association of College Professors representing its members who are teachers or parents of students currently attending educational institutions in Oklahoma.
In the Monday filing, lawyers noted that members of AIM and the NAACP are affiliated with the Tulsa Public Schools as teachers, parents and students.
The named defendants include State Attorney General John O’Connor, Governor Kevin Steitt, State Police Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister, a member of the State Board of Education, a member of the Oklahoma Higher Education Board of Trustees, the Angela Grunewald, Superintendent of the University of Delaware, Edmond Public Schools, and Edmond Public Schools Board of Education.
As of Tuesday’s close, no hearings had been scheduled on the matter.
HB 1775, passed in 2021, prohibits teaching that one race or gender is inherently superior. It also prohibits making students feel guilty or uncomfortable because of their race or gender, or teaching anyone to be inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether knowingly or not.
The text of the measure does not include the term “critical race theory.” However, many have interpreted its provisions as a ban on the concept, arguing that many key pillars of American society have been formed to benefit whites at the expense of minorities, including the justice system and the economy.
TPS came under scrutiny after a science teacher at Memorial High School filed a written complaint with the state Department of Education in February, alleging that the implicit bias professional development curriculum had a section that “included statements that specifically shamed white people’s past crimes in history, and stated that All people are born with implicit racial bias.”
Slides and audio from a training session by Tulsa World Review refer to implicit bias as a pervasive, pervasive phenomenon, noting that educational and other systems were originally built for people who are “very different from those who attend our schools today.” .
Tulsa is one of two school districts statewide due to violations of HB 1775. Another school district, Bronco Public Schools, self-reported an investigation and violation following a June 23 meeting of the board of directors, prompting the Oklahoma State Department of Education to initially suggest it was recognized as having a flaw.
In a footnote, the lawyers noted that they did not include the Mustang in Monday’s filing due to a lack of information about the circumstances that led to the Oklahoma City area’s violation of the law. However, the footnote also mentions that the attorney has an open records request and is awaiting more information on the matter.
Featured Video: Tulsa Public Schools Warned for Violating HB 1775: View Full Oklahoma Board of Education Discussion and Vote