After the Idaho legislature recently approved a ban on teachers “indoctrinating” students with critical race theory in schools, the Republican governor signed it into law on Wednesday.
The bill, signed by Gov. Brad Little, does not necessarily ban critical race theory fully, but it bans educators from forcing students to “affirm, adopt or adhere to” any doctrines that claim any person’s race, ethnicity, sex, or religion maintain responsibility for past actions of their identity group. Little wrote in the bill’s transmittal letter that critical race theory “undermines popular support for public education in Idaho.”
“The claim that there is widespread, systemic indoctrination occurring in Idaho classrooms is a serious allegation,” said Little. “Most worryingly, it undermines popular support for public education in Idaho.” The bill, HB 377, was sponsored by state GOP Sen. Carl Crabtree and says, “No distinction or classification of students shall be made on account of race or color.”
“This bill does not intend to prohibit discussion in an open and free way,” Crabtree said. “It is a preventative measure. It does not indicate that we have a rampant problem in Idaho. But we don’t want to get one.”
In addition to banning teachers from forcing students to conform to ideological positions or viewpoints, the legislation bars funding to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities that do so. Missouri, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas have put forth similar bills in their respective legislatures. The Idaho House killed a bill to grant $1.1 billion in funding to schools earlier this month due to dissatisfaction with a lack of legislation addressing critical race theory.
Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Boise, claimed the bill did not do enough to stop critical race theory trainings from happening among educators. “[F]aculty members, teachers and professors could still be forced to undergo anti-racism or culturally responsive training if they wish to serve on search committees or even obtain or keep a job,” the group said.
Matt Freeman, executive director of the Idaho State Board of Education, told The Federalist in a statement that the group “did not take a position on HB 377.”
“The Idaho State Board of Education did not take a position on HB 377. As State Board President Kurt Liebich stated last week, the Board has not received any documented evidence of systematic ‘indoctrination’ occurring in Idaho’s public schools or our public higher education institutions,” Freeman said. “However, the Board is serious about addressing the concerns expressed by the legislature. The Board will soon begin a comprehensive review of its governing policies related to academic freedom and responsibility for both faculty and students, with the goal of having any updates to these policies completed later this year.”
“At the same time,” Freeman continued, “the Board will begin conducting standardized campus climate surveys of students so that we have objective data, rather than anecdotes, that we can report back to the legislature to help inform decisions and public policy.”