The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state of Oklahoma on Tuesday in order to stop a state law that limits the teaching of critical race theory.
"HB 1775 is a direct affront to the constitutional rights of teachers and students across Oklahoma by restricting conversations around race and gender at all levels of education," ACLU of Oklahoma legal director Megan Lambert wrote in a press release.
"We bring this case to vindicate the rights of Oklahoma teachers and students and to protect the integrity of our educational institutions."
The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, states the Oklahoma State Board of Education's policy prohibits discriminating "on the basis of race or sex," teaching that an "individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive," or teaching that any race or sex is "inherently superior."
However, the ACLU argues, HB 1775 violates students' and educators' First Amendment rights and is "aimed at censoring discussions around race and gender in the classroom." The suit seeks to block the law on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.
"All young people deserve to learn an inclusive and accurate history in schools, free from censorship or discrimination," ACLU attorney Emerson Sykes said. "HB 1775 is so poorly drafted — in places it is literally indecipherable — that districts and teachers have no way of knowing what concepts and ideas are prohibited.
"The bill was intended to inflame a political reaction, not further a legitimate educational interest."
Lambert added "education is a tool of empowerment put to its highest use when teachers and students are afforded the full scope of their constitutional rights to engage in comprehensive, meaningful, and sometimes difficult conversations."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Black Emergency Response Team (BERT), University of Oklahoma Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU-AAUP), the Oklahoma State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP-OK), and the American Indian Movement (AIM).
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