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Educators, others criticize sudden date change of public hearings on controversial social studies standards

PIERRE, S.D.  — The South Dakota Board of Education Standards has changed the location and moved the date of its next hearing on its proposed controversial content standards for social studies.

The governor-appointed board had previously announced the hearing would be held on Saturday, February 11, in Pierre. It will now be take place on Friday, February 10 at the Rapid City Rushmore Hotel at 9a.m. MT / 10a.m. CT.

The South Dakota Education Association announced the date change saying, “SDEA, ASBSD, SASD and SD PTA requested a Saturday hearing to allow more participation from working parents and educators.  The change in days means most won’t have the opportunity to attend the hearing because they cannot take time off from their jobs and classrooms.”

KELOLAND News reported that after contacting the South Dakota Board of Education Standards to ask why the date was changed, department spokesperson Ruth Raveling responded, “Scheduling and logistics made the alternate dates discussed by the board problematic.”

People can submit comments on the standards in writing or at the hearings. For more details go online.  Registration to testify in person at the February 10 public hearing will open January 18.

In 2022, the South Dakota Department of Education removed more than a dozen references to the Oceti Sakowin from a 2021 draft of standards created by a workgroup comprised of 44 members, as well as a facilitator and lead. Of those 44 members, 31 of them were educators certified by the DOE.

Educators, administrators, parents and members of the public, along with a majority of the original workgroup, opposed the DEO’s rewrite of the standards submitted by the workgroup.

Gov. Kristi Noem then ordered a newly appointed standards working group. It was discovered that Noem and the governor’s office staff selected the workgroup members, and a document that would become the standards was sent to workgroup members provided by Hillsdale College, a conservative, Christian college based in Michigan.

Noem has advocated for the “1776 Pledge to Save Our Schools” as part of a conservative drive to emphasize the qualities of the founders of the United States. The current proposed South Dakota standards emphasize the qualities of America’s founders and mimic language Noem has used as she jumped on the conservative cause of weeding certain “divisive” teachings on race from public schools.

Opponents have called it a “thinly veiled political document.”

The Republican governor claims the new proposed standards are free from “political agendas” and include an increased focus on Native American history.

Public comments sent to the department of education regarding the standards have overwhelmingly opposed the adoption of language that is currently included in the proposed social studies standards. As of Nov. 18, 2022, the DOE had heard 968 public comments on the proposed standards. In total, proponents submitted 103 public comments, opponents submitted 828 and there were 37 neutral comments.

Following the Friday, February 10 hearing in Rapid City, one more hearing remains.  The date for that hearing in Pierre has been changed as well, from Saturday, February 11 to Monday, April 17.

 

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