Social studies hearing to get larger venue, new date

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Department of Education announced Tuesday night a five-week delay and a move to a larger venue in Aberdeen for the first public hearing on controversial proposed content standards for social studies.

The hearing before the state Board of Education Standards was supposed to be Monday, September 20, at Holgate Middle School theater. The new plan sets it for October 25 at the Ramkota Convention Center in Aberdeen.

A state law requires at least four public hearings over the course of six months on changes to content standards. The law, first passed in 2012 and amended in 2014 and 2017, requires hearings in Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls.

An accompanying law passed in 2014 requires at least 30 days of public notice for a hearing on content standards.

The changes for the social studies standards came one day after a protest march in Pierre against the department’s removal of dozens of references to Native American culture from a draft version that a team of teachers, historians and others had assembled at the department’s invitation.

The marchers also called for the resignations of Governor Kristi Noem; two of the governor’s cabinet members, education secretary Tiffany Sanderson and tribal relations secretary David Flute; and state Indian education director Fred Osborn.

There also was a call to move the state Office of Indian Education back to the Department of Education from the Department of Tribal Relations. Governor Noem had transferred it.

The department’s announcement Tuesday stated, “A bigger venue has been selected to ensure an open process that does not disrupt learning for students. Because of the change in venue, a new notice must be issued in accordance with state law.”

Sanderson was quoted in the announcement.

“We want to ensure a productive environment for these hearings and are working to accommodate what
we expect will be an enthusiastic turnout for the Aberdeen hearing. We look forward to working with the Board of Education Standards, educators, and the public through the process of adopting standards that ensure our expectations for student learning reflect South Dakota values,” she said.

Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, a former legislator and retired teacher, chairs the state board. Aberdeen schools superintendent Becky Guffin is vice chair.

Noem is the third governor in a row to face criticism over South Dakota K-12 school standards. Defenders of the proposed standards, such as Tony Venhuizen, who was chief of staff for Governor Dennis Daugaard and more recently Noem, have argued the proposed standards would have more Native American content than the current standards that were adopted in 2016.

The state board in 2018 approved the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards for use by public schools. A state law outlines how those are to be developed as part of the department’s standards-setting process.

The South Dakota State Historical Society trustees called Friday for more recognition of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people as well as others in the proposed social-studies standards.

Representative Shawn Bordeaux, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member, introduced legislation in the 2021 session to move the Office of Indian Education back to the Department of Education. Co-sponsors included other members of the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee. The bill died after its first hearing, despite support from many members of the state Indian Education Advisory Council.

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