Anti-CRT bill drafted, WEA calls it 'burdensome'

WYOMING – Two leaders of the Wyoming State Senate joined state superintendent Jillian Balow to announce legislation and efforts to preemptively prevent critical race theory from being taught in Wyoming classrooms.

During a Sept. 10 press conference, Sen. Ogden Driskill announced his office has drafted the Civics Transparency Act with the Legislative Service Office. The Devils Tower representative said his bill gives “parents the tools to know what is being taught in their children’s classrooms and prevents the indoctrination found in the critical race theory curriculum that has been pushed by the far-left and has found its way into some classrooms.”

Balow, a vocal critic of critical race theory, supported the proposed legislation.

“K-12 classrooms are not an appropriate forum for radical political theory such as CRT,” she said. “But it is not enough as state leaders to say what shouldn’t be taught, we also need to help school districts with what should be taught. That is why this bill is so critical. This bill empowers parents with tools they need to oversee what is being taught in their district and provides guidance to districts on comprehensive U.S. history and civics instruction.”

Senate President Dan Dockstader added that people cannot stand to see the country’s history be rewritten.

“We honor facts, we learn history, good and bad, and we recognize that Wyoming is the Equality State,” he said.

Driskill said his bill intends to reinforce that no one race is inherently better or worse. He said it’s important for the future generations to base opinions on their own terms “rather than on the terms of Nancy Pelosi, the far left and Hollywood.”

The bill states that school districts must prominently publish a list of learning material during the preceding school year, as well as any policies or procedures governing approval or consideration of learning materials and activities.

Driskill’s bill also states that any school or college that receives public funds shall give instruction in the essentials of the United States Constitution, as well as the constitution of Wyoming. A student shall not receive a degree without satisfactorily passing an examination on the principles of the constitution of the United States and Wyoming. That instruction is determined in the bill to be given at least three years from kindergarten to eighth grade and an addition year in each secondary and college grades.

The Wyoming Education Association issued a statement earlier this week that said the draft is a “perfect example of a problem we see time and time again here in Wyoming.”

According to WEA President Grady Hutcherson, the bill reflects a lack of practical understanding of the classroom. He called it “unrealistic and burdensome red tape and takes away quality teaching time with students.”

Hutcherson said it was unrealistic and limiting to expect teachers to account for every resource incorporated into teaching every class. That’s why the state has teaching standards, which are meticulously developed by professionals with input from community members.

“The Wyoming Education Association firmly believes that all students deserve honesty in education and it is educators – not pundits or politicians – who know how to best develop age-appropriate lessons for students,” Huterchson said.

The bill instructs each school district to, in fourth grade, teach the principles of the first and second paragraphs, and last sentence of the Declaration of Independence. It also requires teach the principles of Article 1, Sections 2 and 3, and Article 6, Section 1 of the Wyoming Constitution.

“Students shall be provided a copy of the provisions and class time shall be dedicated to discussion of the meaning of the provisions identified in this subparagraph,” the bill reads. “That Wyoming was the first jurisdiction to provide men and women with equal right to vote and hold a public office when Wyoming’s first territorial legislature passed the measure by law in 1869.”

The bill also directly addresses the teaching of slavery with its own definition.

“The history of slavery and race-based discrimination, to include the end of slavery and efforts to end discrimination in accordance with the founding principles of the United States,” it reads.

“That it is wrong to be unfair to anyone or treat anyone differently due to their race or ethnicity.”

Balow said she believes there are schools in Wyoming that teach white oppression, systemic racism, white privilege and Marxism. She did not cite examples there but told WyoFile about hand written notes she received from the parent of a middle-school student they found concerning about fundamentals of Marxism. Balow said she did not follow up with the school or the teacher to learn the specific lesson or course the notes referenced.

Hutcherson rebutted Balow, who said she believes there is a lack of, or inadequate, state standards for history. Hutcherson said the existing standards have helped Wyoming students excel in the classroom and that changes to those standards should come from a comprehensive process built to help students outperform much of the country.

“Changes to these standards should come from this traditional process that protects all students’ best interests – rather than serving only to further a political agenda,” WEA statement read.

Critical race theory is a field of curriculum aimed at exploring racism in social construct and institutions that was first explored by scholars in the mid 1970s. Latest curriculum offerings show only 20 American law colleges and three non-American law schools offer courses or classes on the theory.