ACLU, Allies Charge Oklahoma’s Classroom Censorship Act Unconstitutional, Threat to 1st and 14th Amendment Rights

By Maria Pia Matos

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — A group of civil rights organizations fighting for multiracial teachers and students submitted a brief last Thursday opposing the state of Oklahoma’s attempts to delay a classroom censorship law (HB 1775) that restricts discussions about race and gender in public schools and higher education.

The ACLU, in a press statement, wrote, “Earlier this year, in a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Oklahoma Attorney General, State Board of Education, and other state officials sought to dismiss the group’s lawsuit, the first federal complaint of its kind against a classroom censorship law.”

The groups opposing the law responded “their lawsuit provided detailed and disturbing facts to support claims that the law impinges on educators’ free speech rights and academic freedom, violates students’ right to information, and is racially discriminatory. The law is also unconstitutionally vague and a threat to our First and 14th Amendment rights,” the ACLU reported.

The ACLU claims the measure has pushed school districts to strike Black and female author books from reading lists and compelled K–12 teachers and college professors to change their curricula to avoid discussing racial and gender-related topics.

HB 1775 will continue to silence the speech of Black people, Indigenous people, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups if it is not challenged, stated the ACLU.

“We will…double-down on our commitment to striking down this law that is unconstitutionally silencing important discussions about systemic racism, implicit bias, and the rich perspectives and lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ Oklahoman,” said Genevieve Bonadies Torres, associate director of the Educational Opportunities Project with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“HB 1775 creates confusion for educators and students, further marginalizes the underserved and tragically jeopardizes the legitimacy of our entire education system,” said Mary Topaum, director of the American Indian Movement Indian Territory, adding, “Oklahoma should be doing more–not less–to create inclusive environments for all students including Native American students.”

“The longer HB 1775 stays in place the harder it will be for the next generation to understand the contentious moments in history that still shape our nation today,” said Anthony R. Douglas, president of the Oklahoma State Conference NAACP. “Our country needs to acknowledge and reckon with its history of systemic racism — this includes being able to teach and talk about these concepts in our schools.”

“In Oklahoma, we have seen the devastating impact that HB 1775 has had on our educators and students as they have endured over a year of fear and censorship,” said Megan Lambert, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

Lambert added, “It is critical to protect their right to talk and learn about race and gender in our schools and to ensure Oklahomans have access to an education that includes the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people, women and girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. Censoring education about issues of race and racism hurts all students, especially students from marginalized communities, our society, and our state.”

“HB 1775 is so poorly drafted — in places it is literally indecipherable — that districts and teachers have no way of knowing what concepts and ideas are prohibited,” said Emerson Sykes, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

Sykes added, “The bill was intended to inflame a political reaction, not further a legitimate educational interest. These infirmities in the law are all the more troubling because the bill applies to public colleges and universities, where the First Amendment is especially protective of academic freedom.”

About The Author

Maria Pia Matos is a fourth-year student at the California Polytechnic University, Pomona, pursuing a major in Political Science. At her school, Maria Pia serves as the Attorney General for the student government. She plans to attend law school in Fall 2024. Maria Pia is originally from Lima, Peru.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for