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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem bans critical race theory in K-12 schools by executive order

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem bans critical race theory in K-12 schools by executive order
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that she signed an executive order to ban critical race theory from K-12 schools. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed an executive order to ban critical race theory in state schools after state legislators rejected a similar bill last month.

The Republican governor signed the executive order Tuesday ordering the state's Department of Education against directing or compelling "department employees, students, teachers or school district employees to personally affirm, adopt or adhere to inherently divisive concepts."

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The order, which repeatedly uses the term inherently divisive concepts, defines it as concepts that state one race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin "is inherently superior to another" as well as that an individual is "inherently racist, sexist or oppressive whether consciously or subconsciously" based on race or gender.

The education department is also ordered to review policies, materials and trainings that promote inherently divisive concepts and have them removed by Oct. 1.

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"Political indoctrination has no place in our classroom," Noem said in a statement. "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," she said.

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The move by Noem comes a month after the South Dakota Senate rejected her bill to ban critical race from K-12 schools.

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"Once again, Noem refuses to work with South Dakota leaders to make the state better," gubernatorial challenger and Democratic state Rep. Jamie Smith tweeted in response to the executive order.

With the executive order, South Dakota becomes the latest state to attack critical race theory, which is an academic and legal concept that discusses systemic racism.

According to Education Week, an independent news organization that covers elementary school education, 42 states have taken measures to limit the teaching or critical race theory or to restrict teachers discussing race and sex this year.

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Two weeks ago, Noem signed a bill to ban state universities from requiring students and teachers to attend training or orientations based on critical race theory.

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota on Tuesday described Noem's executive order as censorship and in violation of First Amendment protections for academic freedom.

"This executive order is overly broad and opens the door to a wide variety of interpretations that could censor free speech and important discussions about systemic racism," Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager, said in a statement. "Students deserve to have a free and open exchange about our history -- not one that erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black, indigenous and other people of color."

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