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New report says some Native American education standards could violate governor's executive order

An illustration on the cover of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards.
Department of Education
State of South Dakota
An illustration on the cover of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards.

The state Department of Education says some standards used to teach students about Native American history and culture could be in violation of an executive order from the governor.

The standards are called the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings. They’ve been adopted by the state Board of Education Standards and are used in some South Dakota schools.

A new report by the Department of Education says, “A few of the suggested approaches to instruction embedded into the standards may not align” with an executive order Gov. Kristi Noem issued earlier this year.

That order called for a review of policy, guidance, training and standards to identify and bar so-called “divisive concepts” — including Critical Race Theory — from K-12 classrooms.

On Monday, the state Department of Education issued a report stemming from that review. The report recommends a review of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings by experts and stakeholders, and says the Essential Understandings are scheduled for public hearings in 2024-25.

The report found other existing policies in the state are generally in line with the executive order, meaning Critical Race Theory and related concepts are largely not present in the state education system.

Two standards in Introduction to Law and Public Safety 2, a career and technical education course, are deemed “potentially problematic" in the report. But no school district currently offers the course, and the report acknowledges courses in the law and public safety career cluster are taught infrequently at the K-12 level.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture
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