By SEAN MURPHY Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma public school teachers would be prohibited from teaching certain concepts of race and racism under a bill given final approval by the state House on Thursday.
The GOP-controlled House voted 70-19 for the bill that prohibits teaching of so-called “critical race theory.”
“Students are being taught that because they’re a certain race or sex, they’re inherently superior to others or should feel guilty for something that happened in the past,” said Rep. Kevin West, a Moore Republican who sponsored the bill. “We’re trying to set boundaries that we as a state say will not be crossed when we’re teaching these kinds of subjects.”
Among the concepts that would be prohibited are that individuals, by virtue of race or gender, are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Some Republicans expressed concerns that public school children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Democrats said the bill was a waste of time and addressed a non-existent problem.
“Instead of focusing on the real issues facing Oklahomans, the majority party continues their attack on anyone in Oklahoma who might not look, think, love, or act like them,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman.
The bill is similar to measures signed into law in Utah and Arkansas. Another similar measure stalled out this week in Louisiana, but its author has said he intends to try and revive it.
The measure would also prevent colleges and universities from requiring students to undergo training on gender or sexual diversity. Virgin, whose district includes the University of Oklahoma, said that provision is particularly troubling because the university is one of several in the state that provides training on gender and sexual diversity and for incoming students.
“That’s what freshman orientations are about: making it clear that this is an inclusive space and inclusive environment and no one should be made to feel that they don’t belong,” Virgin said. “To say in this building that we should prohibit that sort of training goes against the very fabric and very idea of higher education.”
The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for final approval. Stitt typically doesn’t comment on legislation awaiting his signature, and a spokeswoman said he planned to take action on the bill next week.