The state Board of Education Standards was supposed to hold a public hearing Monday on proposed rule changes “to prohibit the adoption of content standards that promote inherently divisive concepts and revise language regarding waivers of administrative rules.” The rule changes would codify the examples of “divisive concepts” that Governor Kristi Noem uses as political props in her fight against what she lazily and incorrectly calls “critical race theory“. The rule changes would also strike two instances in administrative rule of the word equity, which Noem’s Department of Education considers divisive.
The deadline for public comment on these proposed rule changes was Wednesday, August 17. The South Dakota Education Association said the proposed language would prohibit constructive classroom discussions of bias, racism, classism, sexism, and bigotry, things we kinda sorta hafta talk about with kids to make sure kids don’t fall for those bad things. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed its opposition to the vague, politicizing, racist, and unconstitutional changes. South Dakota Voices for Justice saw the rule changes as an effort by the Governor to circumvent the Legislature’s rejection of a similar proposal last March and was mobilizing people to submit comments and attend Monday’s meeting to express their opposition to these vague, speech-chilling rules.
Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Education Standards canceled Monday’s meeting. The board, which Noem further rigged to do her bidding in April, says it’s just postponing the meeting “to review comments that have been submitted,” but the board did not announce a new date for this required public hearing.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader has requested copies of the public comment submitted to the board. It should be interesting to see just how many comments the board received, how much of that comment is unfavorable or favorable to the proposed rule changes, and just how much notice the board will give of the rescheduled meeting so the SDEA, ACLU, SDVJ, and everyone else who wanted to speak on these rules can rearrange their schedules to participate in this important process. Even if the board members have a lot of comment to read, they perhaps should set a meeting date now: a deadline may help board members focus their attention on studying the public comment received so far and preparing for the public discussion we need on this issue. Plus, the Board will have its hands full with public hearings on the proposed Hillsdale social studies standards shortly, so they ought to confront and resolve this rule change and get it off their desk promptly, before they have to turn to the broader, more complicated issue of the social studies standards.