Association class

New ruling on CRT law has ‘sparked fear’ among teachers returning to class

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A new ruling by the State School Board has some educators worried about how they should teach in their classrooms.

On Thursday, the State Council voted to lower the accreditation status of Mustang public schools to “accreditation with caveats,” which is only one level away from probation.

Mustang Public Schools released a statement clarifying that the violation of HB 1775, also known as the CRT Act, stemmed from a lesson in teaching students how to work better with each other.

“Cross the Line activities grew out of the anti-bullying space and were intended to help students
develop the understanding that everyone has something to deal with and to show empathy and
not bully or tease others,” the statement read.

The feelings were hurt and reported to the school district. They handled the matter internally, but the Council of State felt that more action was needed.

“I don’t want to leave here and people feel like we’re unfairly targeting TPS. [Tulsa Public Schools] when there is another school district that has had a similar violation that we handle differently,” said Jennifer Monies, one of the state board members.

The 1775 House Bill prohibits programs where “every individual is expected to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of his race or sex.”

Here is the full invoice:

Chevis Smith teaches math at Millwood Middle School.

He said that HB 1775 micro-manages classrooms.

“You feel like someone’s sitting there looking at you, like, ‘You better not say that. If you say that, it’s going to come back to you,’” Smith said.

Smith said the classroom is a place where kids can express their ideas with the comfort of knowing they won’t fail. It encourages debate in the classroom because it helps students grow into their own intellectual selves and promotes critical thinking.

When he began his teaching career, Smith taught history. He stressed the importance of including all students in class discussions.

“If you make sure that the 15 [students] are engaged in what you teach and understand and know what’s going on, I think that takes away the feeling that they’re being left behind or being attacked,” Smith said.

Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said Thursday’s decision “has sparked fear among OAS members.”

The OAS has 30,000 members statewide.

The full statement can be read below.

“The events of yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting struck fear into OAS members.

Oklahoma educators are professionals with integrity and strive every day to uphold the law. However, yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting highlighted the fact that the vagueness in the language of HB 1775 presents unnecessary challenges to an already stressed system.

This creates significant concern among teachers and staff, who may now be afraid to teach parts of the state standards for fear of reprisal.

It is offensive that the majority of the members of the Council of State think that an overly punitive sanction would help deter future violations. This assumes that, without this level of punishment, teachers would be breaking the law.

This lack of respect for our education professionals further exacerbates the major problem at hand: the crisis of the shortage of educators. Oklahoma classroom professionals should feel trusted and respected to teach standards, follow the guidelines of their school districts, and do what is best for our children.

Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association