When House Bill 1775 became law in 2021, banning the teaching of certain concepts widely associated with Critical Race Theory (CRT), opponents claimed that CRT was not taught in Oklahoma schools. .
Critics continue to make this claim today. But a recent application from the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, indicates that union leaders believe the CRT is embedded in Oklahoma’s schools.
The 1775 House Bill made it illegal to teach Oklahoma students that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by reason of his race or gender, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
The legislation also prohibited teaching that “an individual should be discriminated against or suffer adverse treatment solely or in part because of race or sex,” or teaching students that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of one particular race to oppress members of another race.
Opponents dismissed the law as unnecessary.
Representative Jacob Rosecrants, a Normandy Democrat and former teacher, raised this criticism again in a recent television interview. Rosecrants said “CRT is not something taught in our K-12 schools”, and said the problem “was literally made up”.
But when the Oklahoma State Department of Education sought public comment during the agency’s ongoing rulemaking process for HB 1775, the Oklahoma Education Association asked the agency to provide safeguards to teachers who are ordered to integrate the CRT into the classroom.
Heath Merchen submitted a comment on Feb. 1, saying he was “writing on behalf of the Oklahoma Education Association to propose an addition” to agency policy HB 1775 “in an effort to protect teachers from litigation that may follow. implementing the rule if school districts are noncompliant and requiring teachers to teach in a way that could violate the standard.
Merchen said the OAS wants regulation HB 1775 to include language that reads, “No teacher or school employee shall be found in violation of this provision, or face any form of discipline, retaliation, or punishment.” other adverse consequences as a result of an alleged violation of this provision. provision if the teacher or school employee teaches the curriculum approved by the employing school district, even though the employing school district may be found to have violated this provision. »
Merchen’s LinkedIn page identifies him as an OAS attorney, and the comment was submitted from an OAS email account.
State Rep. Kevin West, a Moore Republican who authored the 1775 HB House, isn’t surprised.
“Obviously that’s what we said from the start,” West said. “We know this is happening and absolutely I’ve had a bunch of contact from parents all over the state.”
West said he’s also been contacted by teachers who thank him for working to ban CRT from the classroom “because they see that thumb in different subjects.”
While opponents of HB 1775 have claimed the law prevents teachers from providing exact story instructions, a guide published by the National Education Association, of which the OAS is a state affiliate, admitted that it does not. was not the case.
The “Know Your Rights” guide published by the NEA and OAS acknowledged: “Laws enacted to date do not generally prohibit the teaching of the full history of the United States, including the teaching of close of 250 years of slavery, the Civil War, the Reconstruction period, or the violent white supremacy that ended Reconstruction and has persisted in one form or another ever since.
The NEA/OEA guide informed Oklahoma teachers that HB 1775 “does not preclude the teaching of history and social studies or any other subject that meets Oklahoma academic standards,” and noted that state standards mandate the teaching of a wide range of events related to racial issues.
Even so, OAS officials have already criticized HB 1775, and OAS programming has adopted many concepts loosely associated with the CRT.
Notably, former OAS President Alicia Priest was among those who criticized HB 1775 as part of a June 2021 panel.
In August 2021, the OAS-affiliated Oklahoma Aspiring Educators Association hosted a symposium where speakers informed future teachers that “practices of white supremacist culture” include “the worship of writing”, “individualism” and “objectivity”. ‘, and they were told that the ‘pillars of white fragility’ included being ‘taught to see themselves as individuals rather than part of a racially socialized group’.
The OAS website has also included materials on “racial and social justice” that often align with the principles of the CRT.
West said continued vocal opposition to HB 1775 is the surest sign that the CRT has infiltrated Oklahoma public schools.
“I think the biggest eye-opener is how hard they fought every step of the way,” West said. “If you’re talking about making something illegal and you don’t do it, then you’re like, ‘Okay, that’s okay.’ But the mere fact that they fight so hard tells me they do, in fact.