State Watch

Noem signs bill that rejects ‘divisive’ race trainings at South Dakota universities

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) speaks during a Conservative Political Action Conference held on July 11, 2021 in Dallas
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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) on Monday signed legislation banning the state’s public universities from using training and orientation materials that could cause racially based “discomfort.”

“No student or teacher should have to endorse Critical Race Theory in order to attend, graduate from, or teach at our public universities,” Noem said in a statement. “College should remain a place where freedom of thought and expression are encouraged, not stifled by political agendas.”

Noem said the state House Bill 1012 “prohibits colleges from requiring students and teachers to attend trainings or orientations based on Critical Race Theory,” though the actual text of measure makes no mention of critical race theory. 

Instead, it lists seven “divisive concepts” that are prohibited from being a mandatory part of trainings for college students or faculty members. It does not ban teaching that racism is systemic in societal institutions, which is the framework of critical race theory.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota has previously said that the measure dampens the First Amendment rights of educators and “creates more questions than answers.”

“It opens the door for a wide range of interpretations that could be used to chill free speech and academic freedom, discouraging open and honest discussions about systemic racism in classrooms and in higher education communities,” ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager Jett Jonelis said. 

“That House Bill 1012 passed shows the very need for the types of discussion our government is trying to prohibit,” Jonelis added.

Tags Critical race theory Kristi Noem racial bias South Dakota systemic racism

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