By Joseph Summers
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that he launched an investigation into Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) for allegedly violating state law prohibiting the use of critical race theory in school settings.
Stitt announced the investigation in a video posted to Twitter. He also mentioned an investigation into Tulsa Public Schools allegedly mishandling COVID relief funds.
Today I am calling for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools and the potential mishandling of public funds. I'm also concerned TPS may have violated state law by teaching critical race theory.
We will get to the bottom of what’s going on at Tulsa Public Schools. pic.twitter.com/0nhMhfRXh2
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) July 7, 2022
“I’m … concerned that TPS may have violated state law, specifically House Bill 1775, which bans public schools from teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” Stitt said. “I firmly believe that no, not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans by their race or sex. Let’s teach students, not indoctrinate them.”
“We will get to the bottom of what’s going on in Tulsa public schools,” Stitt concluded.
The investigation comes after a June meeting of the State Board of Education revealed that Tulsa schools had violated Oklahoma law. According to Brad Clark, attorney for the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), the office investigated a complaint that involved staff training for Tulsa schools.
“We did conclude there was a violation of H.B. 1775,” Clark said. He also stated that OSDE staff believed that the “spirit of that training, or the design of it, was contradictory” to Oklahoma law.
The training took place in 2021, according to the Daily Caller. The session, entitled “Changing Discourse,” was given by the National Equity Project, an organization dedicated to discussing the “historical and ongoing impacts of racism and white supremacy,” according to its website.
Stitt, speaking to the Daily Caller, said, “We’ve got allegations and reasons to believe that they hired a Critical Race Theory kind of instructor and were violating state law. We want to make sure that we hold people accountable.”
“The will of the Oklahoma people is to teach kids not indoctrinate them. We want the auditor to check into that and see if those allegations were true,” he continued.
Violations of the law include loss of accreditation for first offenses. Repeat offenses could result in disestablishing a district.
Also speaking to the Daily Caller, Tulsa schools said that it was made aware in March of a violation of H.B. 1775 regarding “race and ethnic” training from Vector Solutions, a group that provides school districts with diversity and inclusivity courses.
“We do not know what the Governor is referring to in his video. We have not had an official parent complaint this school year,” Tulsa Public Schools said in a statement.
Speaking to CNN, Tulsa schools superintendent Deborah Gist said that the alleged violations of H.B. 1775 were baseless, saying, “It’s all baseless, we are a district that believes in teaching a full and complete history of our country.”
Critical race theory has faced pushback from Republican governors and state officials in the past few months. In January, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned teaching critical race theory in Virginia schools the day of his swearing in.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed H.B. 7 last month that sought to ban critical race theory training in the workplace and schools. The law was challenged shortly after DeSantis signed it. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt subpoenaed several school districts over questionnaires dealing with critical race theory and gender theory.