ABERDEEN, S.D. (KELO) – Teachers, school administrators and parents are all getting a chance to weigh in on South Dakota’s proposed social studies standards. The process has been making headlines for a year and a half.

The original workgroup – made up mostly of educators came up with a plan in 2021, but that plan and workgroup were replaced.

A new 15-member group, includes three state certified teachers, along with lawmakers and members of the governor’s staff. It’s led by a former professor of politics from the private Hillsdale college.

Monday, some people traveled hundreds of miles to talk about the latest plan.

Some of the people who gathered at the Dakota Event Center were part of the commission behind the latest proposed standards, including State Historian Ben Jones who stands behind the plan. 

“These standards request that that begin so that when the kids are older, middle school and high school, when they naturally want to argue about things, that they’re armed with the facts and can do so,” Jones said. 

Samantha Walder, an elementary principal in Tea was also part of the commission and says the process was quote, “hijacked.”  

“As the Commission never voted on any of the final documents being circulated by the Department of Education. I do not support them. Rather, I urge you to let the process of checks and balances to review the concerns of South Dakotans prevail and instead seek the approval of the original updated standards created by the 2021 commission of teachers,” Walder said. 

Elaine Simons is a parent and school board member in Wall who supports the proposed standards. 

“Knowing your history and understanding what has happened in the past really drives children’s knowledge and understanding of our government. Why we are American, how others have failed, as well as the importance of also serving in government and making sure that our freedoms are protected,” Simons said. 

All 23 registered testifiers in favor of the new social studies standards were able to speak Monday within their 90-minute time frame. 27 opponents were able to speak within their 90 minutes as well, but there were many more registered, and they’ll be put on the list for the next public hearing.

One of the opponents who did get to speak is Sherry Johnson. The former teacher and superintendent says she was part of the group that developed the previous standards. She is disappointed with the latest process and proposal.  
“They’re developmentally not appropriate, and I’m sure we’ve heard plenty about that, but they’re also inconclusive. There’s factual information that are missing, and what I brought out was that there is no Native vote even discussed in there, and that didn’t happen until, you know, way later in history. And the Native American Religious Act is definitely not in there. A lot of other things are not in there,” Johnson said.  

The Department of Education also received public comments online and in the mail. 67 were in favor of the proposed standards. 615 were against them.