"HB 1775 is a direct affront to the constitutional rights of teachers and students across Oklahoma by restricting conversations around race and gender at all levels of education," ACLU of Oklahoma legal director Megan Lambert announced in a press release.
"We bring this case to vindicate the rights of Oklahoma teachers and students and to protect the integrity of our educational institutions."
The law, which Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed, states the Oklahoma State Board of Education's policy forbids discriminating "on the basis of race or sex," teaching that an "individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive," or teaching that any race or sex is "inherently superior."
Although the ACLU claims HB 1775 violates students' and educators' First Amendment rights and is "aimed at censoring discussions around race and gender in the classroom." The suit attempts to block the law on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines critical race theory as the concept of race as a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.
"All young people deserve to learn an inclusive and accurate history in schools, free from censorship or discrimination," ACLU attorney Emerson Sykes announced. "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.
"The bill was intended to inflame a political reaction, not further a legitimate educational interest."
Lambert continued, "education is a tool of empowerment put to its highest use when teachers and students are afforded the full scope of their constitutional rights to engage in comprehensive, meaningful, and sometimes difficult conversations."
However, legislators in Oklahoma defended HB 1775 when it passed in the spring as a measure that would prevent teachers from making white students feel personally responsible for past racism. They further announced it would protect students of color from racial stereotyping. The law's backers announced they planned to prohibit classroom conversations about concepts like "systemic racism" and "intersectionality" to prevent the "indoctrination" of students.
"The law ensures that all history is taught in schools without shaming the children of today into blaming themselves for problems of the past, as radical leftists would prefer," state Rep. Kevin West, a Republican and chief sponsor of HB 1775, said in reaction to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Black Emergency Response Team (BERT), University of Oklahoma Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU-AAUP), the Oklahoma State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP-OK), and the American Indian Movement (AIM).