Oklahoma board approves rules banning certain race theories

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

With just one opposing vote, the board approved emergency rules to comply with a bill approved by the Republican-led Legislature this year that purports to ban so-called “critical race theory.” The new law prohibits public school teachers of grades K-12 from teaching eight different concepts about race, including that an individual, by virtue of his or race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. It also prohibits teaching that any individual should feel discomfort or guilt on account of his or her race or sex.

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, although there is no mention in the bill of critical race theory, which is not typically taught in K-12 schools.

Democrats in the Legislature who opposed the bill argued it was a waste of time and addressed a non-existent problem.

Carlisha Bradley, the only Black member of the board, voted against adopting the rules, saying she believes the new law and the rules are doing a disservice to students and teachers.

“With these rules, we are robbing students of having a high-quality education,” she said.

Several current and former teachers addressed the board and said they support the new rules.

The new rules authorize parents of students to inspect curriculum, instructional materials, class assignments and lesson plans to ensure compliance and set up a method for individuals to file complaints. Public schools are required to investigate complaints, and a teacher’s license can be suspended if they are found to have violated any provision of the rule.