PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem has issued an executive order banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in South Dakota’s K-12 schools Tuesday.

In a release sent out Tuesday afternoon, Noem announced the signing of the order.

“Political indoctrination has no place in our classrooms,” said Noem. “Our children will not be taught that they are racists or that they are victims, and they will not be compelled to feel responsible for the mistakes of their ancestors. We will guarantee that our students learn America’s true and honest history – that includes both our triumphs and our mistakes.”

The order states that the Secretary of Education will have until July 1 to examine all policies, guidelines, websites, materials, programs, and content standards to determine whether they are in violation of the executive order and provide a report to the governor. Any programs offered by the Department of Education to K-12 schools found to be in violation of the order will have until October 1, 2022 to modify their programs and content.

Further in the release is an outline of what the order seeks to restrict:

  • The Department of Education (DOE) shall not compel employees, students, or teachers to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to inherently divisive concepts.
  • The Secretary of Education will review all policies within DOE to identify if any promote inherently divisive concepts.
  • DOE will review other materials and trainings to identify if any promote or endorse inherently divisive concepts.
  • If any policies, materials, or trainings promote inherently divisive concepts, they shall end or be removed no later than October 1.
  • Directs the Board of Education Standards to ensure South Dakota Content Standards do not promote inherently divisive concepts.
  • Noem’s order defines ‘divisive concepts’ as “advancing any ideas in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

    The order has drawn criticism, with the ACLU of South Dakota issuing a response opposing the order.

    “Despite the legislature’s unwillingness to codify Noem’s desired policy, Noem today signed an executive order directing the Department of Education to accomplish her goal of censoring classroom discussion of what she calls “divisive concepts,” the ACLU wrote in a Tuesday release, arguing that the order violates the First Amendment right to receive information and knowledge. “Instead of encouraging learning, Noem’s executive order will have a chilling effect on academic freedom.”

    Jett Jonelis, advocacy manager for the ACLU of S.D. said in the release that the order is overly-broad and could censor free speech and important discussions about systemic racism.

    “All young people deserve to learn an inclusive and complete history in schools, free from censorship like this,” said Jonelis. “The ability to discuss and debate ideas, even those that some find uncomfortable, is a crucial part of our democracy — coming back with an executive order that is strikingly similar to her original bill is a subversion of our entire democratic process.”

    Noem’s democratic challenger in the governor’s race, Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls) also expressed opposition, Tweeting “Once again, Noem refuses to work with South Dakota leaders to make the state better,” and “The governor using executive orders to reverse decisions she doesn’t like must be a habit she picked up in DC, along with her distrust of SD teachers.”

    Noem initially announced her plan to issue the order on Monday, after taking the state plane from Pierre to Mobridge to speak at the Wrangler Inn.

    This move comes after only one of Noem’s two anti-CRT bills, HB 1012, banning universities and colleges under the control of the South Dakota Board of Regents from students to attend orientations and training that are based on what Noem defines as CRT, passed the legislature.

    Noem’s other bill, HB 1337, which would ban ‘divisive concepts’ in K-12 schools dealt directly with curriculum, and was killed in the Senate Education Committee, with committee chair Sen. Blake Curd (R-Sioux Falls) pointing out that state law already allows the state secretary of education and the state Board of Education Standards to set direction for what’s taught in South Dakota public schools.

    “I brought two bills this legislative session that banned Critical Race Theory from being taught in our classrooms in our K-12 schools, and another one that banned it in our universities,” said Noem on Monday in a video posted on her Twitter page. “They killed the K-12 one.”

    Noem also claimed in her video that because of her bill, CRT cannot be taught in South Dakota universities. This however is untrue. While Noem’s original draft of the bill would have banned ‘divisive concepts’ from being taught, the university legislation was heavily amended, so it only applies to university training and orientations; it does not apply to classroom instruction. It does not include the words nor definition of critical race theory.

    Educators are still allowed to teach such concepts, and answer questions about them in during orientations and trainings. Students simply cannot be required to attend such events.

    Critical race theory is an academic theory that examines the role of race and racism in law and policy in the United States of America. The theory is predominantly used in graduate legal studies.