Today, senators passed House Bill 1012, legislation that will have a chilling effect on academic freedom in South Dakota. The bill now goes to Gov. Kristi Noem for her signature.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposed House Bill 1012. The following comment can be attributed to Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager:
“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 the university setting, House Bill 1012 encroaches on principles of academic freedom that protect a professor’s right to make teaching choices without government interference. That’s because the First Amendment protects academic freedom and the right to share ideas, including the right of individuals to receive information and knowledge.
“House Bill 1012 creates more questions than answers and leaves South Dakota educators and administrators with the burden of navigating exactly what it means to comply with this law. It opens the door for a wide range of interpretations that could be used to chill free speech and academic freedom, discouraging open and honest discussions about systemic racism in classrooms and in higher education communities. That House Bill 1012 passed shows the very need for the types of discussion our government is trying to prohibit.”
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.