Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Senate approves legislation keeping 'divisive concepts' out of secondary education

Jenifer Jones

State senators have approved legislation aiming to protect students and employees from “divisive concepts” at state universities and technical colleges. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 8. Similar legislation for K-12 public schools was killed by a Senate committee.

House Bill 1012 prevents universities and technical colleges from directing or compelling students “to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to divisive concepts.” The bill lists seven definitions of a divisive concept. It was originally brought by the Office of the Governor as way to ban an academic concept called Critical Race Theory but has been heavily amended.

Proponents say the amended bill is narrow in scope and only applies to trainings and orientations.

Senator Jessica Castleberry, a Republican from Rapid City, says universities and technical colleges can still offer classes and hold discussions on Critical Race Theory.

“Professors are free to teach. Students are free to sign up for classes. We are just saying that this preserves institutional neutrality by preventing Critical Race Theory and divisive concepts from being adopted at the institutional level.”

Opponents of the legislation say it goes against the First Amendment and will stifle free speech on college campuses. Republican Senator David Wheeler of Huron voted against the bill.

“I cannot support the idea that state government should make a list of ideas, write them into statute and call them divisive. It is a bad power that we should not be in the habit of using.”

The House will now consider the Senate’s changes to House Bill 1012, if the changes are accepted it will go to the Governor. If not, it will go to a conference committee.