OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma public school teachers will be prohibited from teaching certain concepts of race and racism under a bill Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law Friday.
The GOP-backed bill prohibits teaching of so-called "critical race theory."
"Now more than ever, we need policies that bring us together, not rip us apart," Stitt said in a video statement on Twitter. "As governor, I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex. That is what this bill upholds for public education."
My statement on HB 1775. pic.twitter.com/2EgMh7A7xZ— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) May 7, 2021
The House author of the bill, Moore Republican Rep. Kevin West, said he's heard reports of students 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.
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.
The Oklahoma Republican Party released a statement this week urging the governor to sign the bill, but Democrats said the measure was a waste of time and addressed a non-existent problem.
"It is more than divisive," said Alicia Andrews, the chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. "It is exclusive and it acts to erase the existence of segments of our population."
A group of Black church leaders recently met with Stitt and urged him to veto the bill, and the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission also sent the governor a letter asking him to veto the bill.
The bill is similar to measures signed into law in Utah and Arkansas. Another similar measure stalled out recently 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.
The bill takes effect on July 1.