Wyoming House Rejects Critical Race Theory Bill

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming House of Representatives on Thursday rejected a bill that would have banned the teaching of critical race theory.

House Bill 97 would have prevented any teacher, administrator or school employee from using public money for instruction that presents any blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, color or national origin.

Teachers also would not be allowed to instruct that any race, sex or color is inherently superior or inferior, that a person should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of their race, color or sex or that a person is inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color or sex.

Critical race theory is described by some as proposing that racism is a social construct ingrained in American life and laws.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the bill’s main sponsor, said during arguments in support of the bill Thursday that it bill actually defined critical race theory and doesn’t just use an umbrella term to ban anything race-related.

He added it is similar to rules in place in other states.

“The state Superintendent of Public Instruction supports this bill and 14 states have passed these bans,” Gray said.

Other sponsors included Reps. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, and John Bear, R-Gillette.

Gray pointed out during the Thursday morning session that the bill actually defined critical race theory and doesn’t just use an umbrella term to ban anything race-related.

But opponents such as Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, said the bill asked the impossible by requiring a neutral teaching of history.

“This bill…states the teaching of history must be neutral and without judgment. Now, how can that be possible?” Schwartz said. “If I were a Native American, I doubt I could accept the neutral, judgment-free approach about the relocation and decimation of the Indigenous population. I’m Jewish, I cannot accept the neutral, judgment-free approach on the murder of 6 million Jews in World War II.”

Schwartz said when learning about the Holocaust, he has experienced a lifetime of discomfort and distress. He said it was “essential” that students should feel the same way when learning about dark periods in American and world history.

Gray argued that Schwartz was giving an “inaccurate” representation of the bill.

While 35 representatives voted to introduce the bill, 24 did not. Because it was a non-budget bill offered during a budget session of the Legislature, it would have required positive votes from two-thirds of the House to move forward.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education proposed guidelines for American history and civics education grant programs which encourage schools to use curriculum related to the New York Times’ 1619 Project (a journalism project that focuses on the consequences of slavery and contributions of Black Americans), critical race theory and the work of anti-racism activist and author Ibram X. Kendi.

The Saratoga school district’s board of trustees voted in October to ban the teaching of critical race theory in its schools.

Last fall, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, drafted legislation that would combat the teaching of CRT in Wyoming schools.

The legislation would require a publication of all instructional materials used by K-12 public schools in the state and modify the requirements for instruction of state and federal constitutions.

This bill, the Civics Transparency Act, had not been introduced as of Thursday. The deadline for the introduction of bills was Friday.

Gray, Neiman and Bear did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

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