Legal Battle Over Critical Race Theory Ban Continues in Oklahoma as Advocacy Group Urges Federal Judge to Act 

The debate over “critical race theory” in education has been ongoing for several years, and now it has reached a critical point in Oklahoma.

Educators, students, and civil rights groups have come together to challenge the state’s law that bans the teaching of this controversial topic. Despite their efforts, the case has been pending for nearly two years and their request for an injunction has gone unanswered.

An advocacy group seeking to reinstate the teaching of the outlawed “Critical Race Theory” in Oklahoma schools has urged a federal judge to issue an injunction, suspending the implementation of Bill 1775 until their case is determined.  

The group of students, educators, and civil rights groups aims to put pressure on the judge in charge of the case to kickstart the hearing and determination process after years of delay.

In a motion filed late September, the group said that their request has been pending for about two years despite filing all the written arguments required by the court to make a ruling on the matter. Notably, their request for a conference in August to discuss the status of the cases also went unanswered.

According to the groups, the court’s delay puts teachers in the third year of self-censoring while depriving students of a “culturally inclusive education.”

Education Officials Enforcing Bill 1775

Following the bill’s signing into law, the state Board of Education implemented the law through emergency rules, effectively prohibiting the teaching of controversial topic in schools. 

Attorneys representing students and educators have also expressed concern over education officials’ move to investigate schools and enforce HB 1775 despite a pending court ruling on the contentious matter. 

According to the attorneys, the officials have already implemented the Bill for teachers’ training activities, including how they should avoid racial bias against students.

“These actions have put educators on notice that the State will continue to enforce HB 1775 to its fullest extent, and educators must tread lightly or else face losing their licenses,” the attorneys explained.

The attorneys asserted that the ban deprives students of access to curricula reflecting diverse ideas, perspectives, and lessons related to inclusive education. Additionally, the ban denies students access to crucial information necessary for developing their cognitive and analytical skills.

Judge Charles B. Goodwin, who is currently overseeing the case in Oklahoma, became a subject of criticism, with many raising questions about his work ethic after allegedly receiving an “unqualified” rating, with his “frequent absence from the courthouse until mid-afternoon” being one of the issues that influenced such a rare rating, according to a former chair of the committee.

Bill 1775: What Does It Ban?

Approved by members of the Oklahoma House and signed into law by the Governor, Kevin Stitt, in 2021, the legislation bans teaching some eight divisive concepts in public schools as outlined in a 2020 executive order issued by former president Donald Trump.

The concepts include the following:

  •  One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
  •  An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;
  • An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
  • Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex;
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race. 

On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued another executive order banning some aspects of diversity training to promote “Racial Equity.”

The Bill Violates The US Constitution

The challengers assert that the bill discriminates against the minority, including LGBTQ+ students, and stifles speech, thereby violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

In the latest motion aimed at keeping the case active, the attorneys challenging the law on behalf of the concerned groups said there was an urgent “need for clarity” on the law to prevent educators from self-censoring their instructions due to fear of hefty penalties or consequences.

“Without this clarity, Oklahoma teachers and professors are obligated to self-censor their instruction, removing lessons related to racism, sexism, and implicit bias for fear of incurring the harsh penalties of the law’s implementing regulations,” the attorneys explained.

However, the state’s Attorney General, Gentner Drummond, defended the law, with his solicitor general telling the judge that the case should be dismissed for failure to present a “plausible claim.” The solicitor general also claimed the law was “succinct, straightforward, and narrowly phrased,” adding that it did not “impede academic freedom.”

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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