By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The three pieces of legislation related to the controversial topic of critical race theory that were proposed in the Wyoming Legislature this session have all died.
Senate File 103 was the third and last of the bills that was still working its way through the legislative process, but ultimately failed to win a review from the House on Tuesday in time to be considered for this session.
SF103 would have banned all schools and colleges that are supported in any manner by public funds from teaching “divisive tenets often described as a critical race theory that inflames divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or other criteria in ways contrary to the unity of the nation and the wellbeing of the state of Wyoming and its residents.”
The bill was co-sponsored by five senators, including Sens. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne.
With the killing of all three critical bills aimed at restricting the teaching critical race theory, Bouchard told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that Wyoming may lose its designation as a “red state.”
“By contrast, Florida’s Legislature regularly passes conservative legislation and before the ink dries, Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it,” Bouchard said.
Another piece of legislation, House Bill 97, would have prevented any teacher, administrator or school employee from using public money for instruction that assigns any blame or judgment for societal developments on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, color or national origin.
HB97 sponsor Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily that is was disappointing and disturbing that all three of the CRT bills were killed this session.
“Critical race theory is totally inconsistent with our Wyoming values,” Gray said. “I plan on continuing to work on banning critical race theory.”
While debating HB97, Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, gave a brief, impassioned speech about why his colleagues should not move the bill forward.
“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 told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that teaching history has great value, but with that, educators must look at both the good and bad points of history.
“Everything’s not always good, our founding fathers were not perfect,” Schwartz said. “To be able to teach both sides, you can’t be constrained.”
He said that HB97 would have constrained teachers, which is why he argued against it earlier in the session. He added that it is not the job of the Wyoming Legislature to decide what is taught in K-12 schools.
The “Civics Transparency Act,” which would have required online publication of all instructional materials used by K-12 public schools in the state, died on a vote of 5-4 in the House Education Committee earlier this week.
Critical race theory is described by some as proposing that racism is a social construct ingrained in American life and laws.
The Saratoga school district’s board of trustees voted in October to ban the teaching of critical race theory in its schools.