House bill

Author of Oklahoma House Bill 1775 says history can still be taught in the classroom

MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – State Representative Kevin West says the law he drafted – Bill of 1775 – is not intended to block history lessons, but it prevents lessons in order to blame students for past actions.

“It’s the concept that every individual should feel discomfort, guilt, angst, etc.,” West said. “If the lesson plan is designed to elicit a certain feeling, that’s what the bill addresses.”

Oklahoma Academic Standards require students to “examine multiple viewpoints regarding the evolution of race relations in Oklahoma.”

This includes the Tulsa Race Massacre, Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws.

West spoke of a situation in which class discussion breaks off after a lesson about the Tulsa Race massacre. For example, if students started sharing their thoughts on the massacre and one or more of the children were uncomfortable with the content, it would not be a violation of the law.

“I think it would very quickly be determined that the program was not designed to do that,” West said.

The lawmaker said eight educational concepts were enshrined in law to be banned because parents requested them.

Representative Kevin West, KFOR Image

West admitted that complaints will be filed, and then school districts will have to deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

But as we saw last week, when the Tulsa and Mustang public school accreditation statutes were lowered, the decision to penalize a school district will ultimately rest with the State School Board.

Levi Patrick, former deputy superintendent of the Office of Programs and Instruction, spent nine years there, three of them in that role.

He said the State School Board holds a lot of power.

“Local districts are sort of held hostage by the interpretation of the few right now,” Patrick said.

He said that during his time, the Office of Programs and Instruction never had enough complaints to justify House Bill 1775.

Now he says the language of the law is too vague and teachers are not comfortable with this upcoming school year.

“People regularly ask me if they can even talk about the civil rights movement, about Martin Luther King,” Patrick said.

He doesn’t want students to deliberately feel shame from a lesson in school, but said tough discussions are needed to learn about societal progress.

“Racism, land theft, genocide. These are parts of American history that our students need to understand because we want to overcome it,” Patrick said.