PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Universities and colleges under the control of the South Dakota Board of Regents will no longer be able to require students to attend orientations and training that are based on what Governor Kristi Noem defines as Critical Race Theory.

HB 1012 was signed into law on Monday along with several other education bills. The bill was initially meant to ban divisive concepts from being taught in the classroom and no state money could be used for actions that would be prohibited by the passage of the bill. But the bill that was signed into law was heavily amended to only apply to orientation and training from colleges and universities.

This law does not prohibit professors in higher education from teaching such concepts in academic instruction, answering questions about divisive concepts in orientation and training, nor does it violate the First Amendment or academic freedom and intellectual diversity.

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

Throughout the legislative session, the governor’s office provided one example of a university professor in South Dakota who they claimed taught Critical Race Theory. KELOLAND News spoke with Dr. Dyanis Conrad-Popova about her curriculum, which does not include Critical Race Theory, according to the University of South Dakota professor.

Critical Race Theory is an academic theory coined in 1989 by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. The theory is a branch of Critical Legal Studies and is defined by the American Bar Association as a theory that analyzes the role that race, and racism, holds in society to determine whether laws have inherent social biases.

The divisive concepts in the bill are defined as follows:

  • That any race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior;
  • That individuals should be discriminated against or adversely treated because of their race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin;
  • That an individual’s moral character is inherently determined by their race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin;
  • That an individual, by virtue of their race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
  • That individuals, by virtue of race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, or national origin;
  • An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin; or
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a strong work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.

A similar bill seeking to ban Critical Race Theory from K-12 education failed in the legislature during the 2022 session. That bill was met with several hours of debate from lawmakers but ultimately did not find enough support in the Senate Education committee to make it to the Senate Floor for debate.

Unlike HB 1012, the bill for K-12 would have limited what was able to be taught in the classroom.