By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A bill aimed at preventing the teaching of critical race theory by requiring teachers to post online the teaching materials they use in class cleared the Wyoming Senate on Monday.
Senate File 62, the “Civics Transparency Act” has now been sent to the Wyoming House of Representatives for introduction sometime this week. It passed the Senate without debate on its third reading Monday on a vote of 18-12.
The legislation would require online publication of all instructional materials used by K-12 public schools in the state.
“This bill has been portrayed as a huge bill, and it’s actually a pretty simple little bill,” co-sponsor Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said when the bill was introduced. “It does something we all look for all the time in this body, which is transparency and accountability.”
The bill is related to the critical race theory debate that was sparked last fall.
Critical race theory is described by some as proposing that racism is a social construct ingrained in American life and laws.
Rather than an outright ban on critical race theory, Driskill said SF62 would require schools to post an online description of materials are being used to teach so members of the public have a chance to give some input on those materials.
“It doesn’t say what they can use for materials, all it says is they have to put them online so parents and certain citizens can look at them and see what we’re doing,” Driskill said. “Controversial materials are really a good thing in our youth, as long as they’re balanced and they get a chance to see both sides.”
Driskill said he knew a balanced approach would not always be possible, but that learning about controversial subjects and opposing viewpoints made for well-rounded adults.
He also pointed out that no teachers would be penalized for not putting their materials online and that he did not want to affect teachers’ ability to teach. Rather, he just wanted educators to be transparent about what they were using for lessons.
The Civics Transparency Act was actually proposed last fall by Driskill and Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton. It was also endorsed by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.
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.