South Dakota students deserve the right to receive an equitable education where they can freely learn and talk about the history, experiences, and viewpoints of all marginalized communities in this country.
It's why the ACLU of South Dakota is opposed to bills like House Bill 1012 and House Bill 1337. But we’re not the only ones.
Read on to learn why students like Rachida are voicing their opposition to bills that censor their education.
I am here to testify in opposition to House Bill 1012 because I believe that students deserve to have a free and open exchange about our history — not one that erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people, women and girls, and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit individuals.
As a student going through the South Dakota public education system, I have always been taught core values like respect and inclusivity and the importance of creating strong communities where everyone feels supported. But how can we ever live up to these core values if we are not given the ability and the information that we need to understand each other? In my experience, that is one of the most important things that school is for - giving us the tools to respectfully interact with one another and bettering our interpersonal communication skills with people who are different from us. House Bill 1012 purports to ban critical race theory, but in reality, none of the labeled “divisive concepts” are part of critical race theory or the basis of any education in South Dakota. This bill is what is truly divisive. It puts a wall up between students that inhibits our ability to really understand one another in the name of protecting our comfort, but we have to step out of our comfort zones to grow as people in order to fulfill our core values.
Recently I attended a meeting for the All Students Welcome club at Brandon Valley High School. This club is a student-led initiative to increase cultural awareness, share diverse perspectives, and create a safe and affirming environment where everyone feels welcome. They invited me to come and speak about my own experiences as a Black Muslim woman in South Dakota and to speak on the importance of Black History Month. My experience with this club was really positive and we all left feeling like we knew more about how to show up for and support each other. However, much of our conversation was about how these students did not feel like they were getting enough of an education in these topics already, so much so that they felt the need to create an extracurricular group where they would do it themselves.
This idea is not uncommon. All over campus, I hear students expressing these feelings and wanting to learn more all of the time. But instead of encouraging learning and helping us fulfill those core values, classroom censorship bills effectively gag educators and students from talking about issues that we care about. Educators need to be able to provide the education that we deserve - an education that includes open and equitable dialogue about our country’s history, acknowledges the role of racism in U.S. history, and includes the experiences and viewpoints of people of color and other marginalized communities.
All students, including students of color, deserve an inclusive and complete history in schools, free from censorship or discrimination.
Join Rachida and help stop these bills.