Lawmakers significantly amend Noem’s Critical Race Theory Bill before passing it

HB 1012, which was originally intended to be the Governor’s ban on “critical race theory,” was amended so that the words “critical race theory” no longer even appear in the bill. It and an intended ban on “political indoctrination” easily cleared the State House on Tuesday.
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Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 4:27 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota lawmakers made significant amendments to Gov. Kristi Noem’s Critical Race Theory Bill before they passed it on Tuesday.

After amendments in the House Education committee and amendments on the House floor, HB 1012 no longer has the words “critical race theory” anywhere in it. It passed by a vote of 54 to 14.

HB 1012 now stipulates that students not be subjected to “divisive concepts,” but does not necessarily require that for classroom teaching, only that institutions “may not require their students or employees to attend or participate in any training or orientation that teaches, advocates, acts upon, or promotes divisive concepts.”

“This bill does not impact classroom curriculum,” said State Rep. Sue Peterson (R-Sioux Falls). “It is important to maintain academic freedom.”

HB 1337, another bill from Noem’s office intended to “to protect elementary and secondary students from political indoctrination,” also passed the House by a vote 50 to 18.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota opposed both bills. The ACLU released a statement saying:

“Lawmakers claim that educators are teaching about these topics in ways that show division among our K-12 students and are contrary to the unity of the nation. They say that restrictions on honest discussions about race and government prevent the political indoctrination of students. But many teachers would interpret these restrictions to mean a ban on discussing these issues at all. That, combined with the threat of being accused of breaking the law, would have a chilling effect on speech and important discussions about systemic racism and American history in our classrooms.”

American Civil Liberties Union

Critical race theory is intended to be a way of looking at history that helps students better understand how racism could be embedded in U.S. institutions. Proponents argue that it is just another theory intended to give students a perspective on American history.

Conservatives, including Noem, argue that critical race theory is a divisive discourse that pits people of different races against each other and says she wants to make sure “our students are not taught that they are responsible for (the) different actions of our ancestors.” Noem has made education reform a centerpiece of her governorship and campaign platform heading into 2022.

The bill will now move over to the Senate, likely to be heard in the Senate Education committee within the next week.

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