Media Contact

Janna Farley,

April 17, 2023

South Dakota academic content standards serve as expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. But the social studies standards for South Dakota’s K-12 public schools that were approved today by the Board of Education Standards is an example of ongoing colonialism and discrimination against Indigenous students and Tribes in South Dakota.

The ACLU of South Dakota opposed the social studies standards approved today. The ACLU is committed to the protection of First Amendment rights for all people and opposes government-led discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin and political status. The ACLU also supports the state’s Indigenous communities as they work to uphold their sovereignty, dignity, and autonomy.

The following statement can be attributed to Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of South Dakota legal director:

“Equal access to learning about Native American heritage and culture in our educational institutions is important. The ACLU supports the protection of students’ First Amendment rights to receive information as part of their education, including education on Oceti Sakowin culture, heritage and history. In conjunction with this effort, the ACLU seeks to preserve the Equal Protection rights of all South Dakotans and its Indigenous students, citizens and teachers under both the state Constitution and U.S. Constitution.

“The initial standards were developed by a nearly 50-person working group in 2021 from diverse backgrounds in South Dakota and were selected to be on the committee because they were qualified experts in our state. The revised standards that were voted on today, however, were written by William Morrisey, a former professor from Hillsdale College in Michigan, and fall short of the depth of Native American topics and Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings previously recommended, despite claims otherwise by the South Dakota Department of Education.

“Our history must be accurately represented in every classroom. We’re very disappointed in today’s vote to approve these standards.”

The ACLU of South Dakota’s testimony in opposition to the standards can be found here:

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.