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Teachers raise questions after bill proposed to keep politics out of Oklahoma classrooms

Posted at 8:50 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-26 06:24:47-05

TULSA, Okla. — Senate Bill 574 would require every school district to create a code of ethics for teachers, and spend three hours in training each year to make sure classes don't get political.

Emily Harris teaches AP US history. The Will Rogers High School educator said she's concerned about the impact of Senate Bill 574, which said teachers can't advocate for any issue that's part of a political party.

"Young teachers like me are often stereotyped as indoctrinating students, that we're telling students to think a certain way. Just because I might be a millennial and a teacher, that I'm telling students how to think," Harris said.

Harris said instead, her goal is to help students think critically and become active citizens.

The bill has caused teachers to speak up over the range of issues that could be considered political, including everything from the economy to criminal justice.

"My fear is that if we take any kind of talk of civics or politics out of the classroom then it's going to affect our society in a negative way because we won't have citizens that are actively engaged," Harris said.

If passed, teachers would also be unable to support candidates or legislation in front of students, and they couldn't introduce a controversial subject or current event if it isn't related to the course. A teacher who violates the code could be fired.

"In the classroom, kids are always asking questions, especially over the past year and a half or so. A lot of students are asking questions about what's going on, why are we walking out, etc. and so forth. I think we're doing them a disservice if we don't answer those questions," Union High School teacher Jim Douthat said.

Multiple teachers say they believe the bill is a response to last year's walkout.

"They want to put a lid on a lot of things and kind of squander our voices. I think after last year you understand, there's no way we're going to be quiet about anything," Douthat said.

The educators say they do understand the importance of not swaying students on anything political. 2 Works for You reached out to the bill's author Senator Mark Allen, and we're still waiting to hear back.

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