State schools

South Dakota Lawmakers Approve Ban on ‘Dividing’ Diversity Teachings in Public Schools and Universities

On Tuesday, the South Dakota House of Representatives passed two bills aimed at limiting diversity-focused teachings in K-12 schools and state-funded colleges. The bills specifically target lessons that make students feel ‘uncomfortable’ about race and other ‘dividing concepts’ like white supremacy, environmental injustice and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Although neither bill explicitly mentions Critical Race Theory (CRT), Republic Governor Kristi Noem described them as bans on CRT, and lawmakers’ discussion during the vote included mentions efforts of the DEI.

The South Dakota Board of Regents, which oversees all public universities in the state, backed the bills, saying they would not affect normal institutional operations. Critics, however, say the new regulations could restrict academic freedom and impose unnecessary constraints on teachers.

The legislation would end up censoring educators who try to teach the state’s dark history, especially as it relates to the oppression of Indigenous peoples, said Rep. Peri Pourier (D), a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, in a press release.

“Once you learn what has happened in this country and on this land, it should distress you, it should cause psychological distress,” she said. “They won’t want to teach about the Wounded Knee massacre because it will trigger a sense of division.”