PIERRE, SD — Gov. Kristi Noem has signed a bill her office says will thwart critical race theory training on public and post-secondary campuses across the state.
Noem signed House Bill 1012, a measure “to protect students and employees of higher education institutions from divisive concepts,” on Monday, March 21, according to a statement from his office.
In the same message to the media, Noem’s office says the measure codifies language that “prohibits colleges from requiring students and teachers to take training or orientations based on critical race theory.”
“No student or teacher should have to endorse critical race theory to attend, graduate or teach at our public universities,” Noem said in a statement accompanying the press release. “The university must remain a place where freedom of thought and expression is encouraged, not stifled by political agendas.”
The text of the bill, which was heavily amended by the state legislature, does not mention the words “critical race theory” anywhere in its final form. After the measure passed the House of Representatives last month, the chamber approved a title change to accurately reflect the impact of the bill.
Instead of the tenets of “critical race theory,” which is a decades-old legal approach that posits that racism is a social construct produced by political and economic systems rather than individual prejudice, HB 1012 lists seven ideas called “concepts of division” that the teachers of the compulsory courses cannot impose on the students.
A “dividing concept” says that an individual “should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or some other form of psychological distress” because of their race or religion. Other banned gigs include general assertions of racial supremacy, or that one’s race or ethnicity is intrinsically linked and even guilty of past sins by one’s race.
The South Dakota Board of Regents provided political support for the bill’s passage in both houses, while noting that the measure did not affect the prerogatives of a teacher in his or her classroom.
In fact, the bill explicitly exempts the “content or conduct” of any curriculum from the prohibition of the concept of division.
In a statement to the Forum News Service, South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Berk Ehrmantraut said the state should invest in higher education, not “attack educators.”
“This is just another example of Governor Noem making trouble to divide South Dakota in the national spotlight,” Ehrmantraut said.
A companion bill that would have more directly affected teaching in the K-12 environment failed by a vote in the Senate Education Committee.
Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at
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