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GREENWOOD Dist. – At a press conference on Friday, one of Oklahoma’s few Black legislators sounded the alarm on a pending vote by the Oklahoma State Board of Education to consider Tulsa Public Schools in violation of an anti-CRT (Critical Race Theory) law.
In a state that only recently signed a law mandating the teaching of the 101-year-old Tulsa Race Massacre in public schools, Rep. Regina T. Goodwin (D-Tulsa), who is a descendant of Massacre survivors, warns that the state is planning to label TPS as “accredited with deficiency” due to HB 1775, a vague, politically-motivated law that bans schools from teaching that students should feel uncomfortable or guilty due to their race or ethnicity.
Following a CRT complaint from a single teacher at Memorial High School, who trusted sources tell The Black Wall Street Times is AP biology teacher Amy Cook, TPS is now being flagged as violating the anti-critical race theory law, Rep. Goodwin told reporters at a press conference inside the Greenwood Cultural Center on Friday. It comes after teachers received a state training on professional development material.
Tulsa Public Schools to face discipline for allegedly violating anti CRT law
For two weeks Goodwin said she asked the Oklahoma State Board of Education and the Tulsa School Board to provide proof that HB 1775 was violated “by materials that were distributed just to the teachers for their own development.” Yet, she said she didn’t receive a response until after she scheduled Friday’s press conference.
Instead of sending her the specific clips of the video slideshow for teachers that allegedly violated the anti CRT law, Goodwin says she was sent the entire 18-minute video with no explanation of what was deemed illegal.
“I didn’t see anything that violated or hear anything that violated” the law, Rep. Goodwin said, adding that she thinks HB 1775 is a trash law. The law currently faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“HB 1775 is so poorly drafted — in places it is literally indecipherable — that districts and teachers have no way of knowing what concepts and ideas are prohibited,” Emerson Sykes, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said last year after the lawsuit was filed.
“And the Act was intended to inflame a political reaction, not further a legitimate pedagogical interest. These infirmities in the law are all the more troubling because the Act applies to public colleges and universities, where the First Amendment is especially protective of academic freedom.”
Rep. Goodwin didn’t reveal the identity of the teacher at Memorial HS who made the complaint, but said she is a “white woman” who has been in the media recently as a controversial figure, adding that even her white students have allegedly sought to have her removed as a teacher.
According to trusted sources who spoke with The Black Wall Street Times, the Memorial HS teacher is Amy Cook. She also allegedly told students Muslim students they would be going to hell and that she tried to have a prayer wall at the school. In a Memorial HS Facebook post, users commented calling her a bigot.
About HB 1775
Specifically, the law, which was signed by Republican Governor Kevin in 2021, says that no teacher shall require as part of a course that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another, or that one race should feel guilty for actions of the past. It also bans schools from requiring diversity or gender diversity training.
“First of all, there is a trash law called 1775 that is going to tell us perhaps how we should teach concepts on race, how we should engage all children in the classroom, and how our teachers should be trained professionally,” Rep. Goodwin said.
Notably, The Black Wall Street Times, John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Center and others urged Gov Stitt not to sign the law last year. After he did so anyway, he was removed from serving as a board member on the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. When questioned by a reporter about his removal, Gov. Stitt laughed, saying he didn’t know he was even on the Commission.
For her part, Joy Hofmeister serves as Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She recently switched from the Republican party to the Democratic party in order to run against Republican Governor Stitt. During the June 28 Democratic primary, voters chose Joy Hofmeister over Sen. Connie Johnson to take on Gov. Stitt in November.
As the leader of the State Board of Education, Rep. Goodwin said the buck stops with Joy Hofmeister and is asking for her to rescind the decision to vote TPS deficient at the upcoming State Board of Education meeting on July 28.
The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Joy Hofmeister for comment on the issue. Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. There is no law preventing Hofmeister from rescinding the deficient vote, though it appears Joy Hofmeister may feel cornered as someone who is forced to abide by the anti CRT law that Gov. Stitt signed.
“Show me where there’s any course that says in 2022 you are responsible for racist acts in the past,” Rep. Goodwin said at the press conference as she highlighted how the law attempts to legislate feelings.
Grandmother of Memorial HS student speaks out after teacher complains of CRT
Joining Rep. Goodwin at Friday’s press conference inside the Greenwood Cultural Center were state Sen. George Young (D-OKC), Tulsa Greater African American Affairs Commission Chair Kristi Williams, Tulsa District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, Tulsa School Board member Dr. Jennettie Marshall, and other community advocates.
Joyce Williams, a community advocate who spoke on Friday, said she has a grandson who attends Memorial HS. She said it troubles her that her grandson could be exposed to someone that is narrow-minded enough that they don’t want to know “about him, his culture, his history,” and how it relates to the bigger picture.
“And I can choose to feel any way that I want to, but that doesn’t mean the way I feel should negatively impact the way you’re able to function.” “I think it’s a shame, and a scam if you will, that that person could even be called an educator.”
Tulsa Public Schools Board member speaks out
Dr. Marshall, who recently drew headlines at a contentious Tulsa School Board meeting, said the downgrading of TPS to “accredited with deficiency” would hurt students as families will seek to move elsewhere. She’s one of two Black Tulsa School Board members.
“We lose more students and then we lose more per pupil funding,” Dr. Marshall said on Friday. “So to lay down and accept a deficiency is not where I as a representative of District 3, want to be.”
Dr. Marshall highlighted the disparate rate of suspensions impacting Black and brown students in the district.
“To impugn the character of the district for something that you have not provided proof of, I have a problem with it. If we as a district are to be punished, where’s the proof?”
E’lena Ashley, another Black Tulsa School Board member who has come under fire for anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, was notably absent from the press conference.
Cindy Driver, a retired teacher, also spoke at Friday’s press conference, urging teachers to remain open to learning from diverse viewpoints.
“It is my philosophy that those who teach should never cease to learn,” Driver said.
Black state Senator tired of being tire
Meanwhile, Sen. George Young (D-OKC) drove from OKC to Tulsa to attend the press conference. A vocal opponent of HB 1775, Sen. Young said he’s tired of Black lawmakers and communities dealing with these anti CRT issues and said he wants folks to start becoming a speed bump.
“I stood on the Senate floor at 23rd and Lincoln in Oklahoma City when this bill was brought up, and the question I asked was why do we need this bill,” Sen. Young said on Friday. He added that a white lawmaker responded, “we don’t want our children to feel bad and be burdened with some guilt.”
The Black Wall Street Times asked Sen. Young if he could identify the name of the lawmaker who made that statement. Sen. Young responded saying he asked the bill’s author state Senator David Bullard the question. But he wasn’t sure who responded.
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Sen. Bullard’s office for clarification. A legislative assistant informed that she would reach out to the Senator.
Oklahoma State Board of Education to meet on July 28 over alleged anti CRT violation
In response to the signing of the anti CRT bill HB 1775 last year, the Oklahoma State Board of Education drafted rules outlining what teachers can and cannot teach in order to comply with the anti-Critical Race Theory law.
The rules regarding HB 1775 state that Oklahoma educators may not teach that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” and that educators may not teach that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex,” among other restrictions.
Following last year’s rules adoption, a spokesperson for Tulsa Public Schools, Emma Garrett-Nelson, denounced the new rules, stating “We cannot and will not teach those histories and experiences that reflect only the dominant White culture, just as we cannot and will not provide an education that deprives children of a true and accurate understanding of the world in which they live. As a public school district, we owe it to the communities we serve to teach the truth — our children and families need and deserve nothing less.”
The Oklahoma State Board of Education will meet Thursday, July 28 at 9:30 a.m. in room 1-20 at the Oliver Hodge Education Building, located at 2500 N. Lincoln Blvd.