Audio from an implicit bias training session deemed to be in violation of a state law designed to limit instruction on race and gender is a recording of a male voice verbatim reading a text to from a visual presentation.
A review of a copy obtained by the Tulsa World on Friday night shows that concepts covered in the 18-minute course offered to Tulsa Public Schools employees through a third-party provider include:
- Recognize that implicit biases can cause uncomfortable feelings and expose unwanted or unintended negative beliefs.
- Ask teachers to be aware of their own racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and how these affect their perceptions.
- Have teachers review student academic and behavioral data for gaps by race, socioeconomic status, and gender.
- Explain the difference between fact and opinion while avoiding imposing personal values in class.
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According to Tulsa Public Schools, participants took the online course at their own pace without a live instructor.
In his remarks to the State Board of Education in June and July, as well as in his July 7 letter to the complainant teacher and the TPS, Oklahoma Department of Education General Counsel Brad Clark said that while the visual slides of the August 2021 course were not problematic, the audio of the presentation violated the spirit, if not the letter, of House Bill 1775.
This in turn prompted the State Board of Education to vote 4-2 on July 28 to accredit TPS with a warning for the 2022-23 school year, although they did not hear the recording for themselves. .
Tulsa World’s access to the session in question was limited to note-taking and did not extend to reposting.
Although TPS confirmed that the audio was what was provided to the Oklahoma State Department of Education for its investigation, a spokesperson for the department said late Friday that the audio reviewed by the the department’s legal office was not a verbatim reading of the slides.
“What was found in there are concepts and assertions that were described in the complaint,” OSDE spokesman Phil Bacharach said.
Adopted in 2021, HB 1775 prohibits teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another. It also prohibits making a student feel guilty or uncomfortable because of their race or gender, as well as teaching that anyone who is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or nope.
Under the law and administrative rules previously approved by the National Board of Education, a violation of this law is considered a deficiency in accreditation.
The TPS was one of two districts statewide to receive a warning for a violation of HB 1775. The other district, Mustang Public Schools, self-reported an investigation and violation after the June 23 council meeting, prompting the Oklahoma State Department of Education. to originally recommend that it be accredited with one deficiency.
The TPS has come under scrutiny after a science teacher at Memorial High School filed a written complaint with the state Department of Education in February, claiming the training had a section that “includes statements that specifically shame white people for past offenses in history, and state that all are implicitly racist in nature.
The session slides and audio reviewed by Tulsa World refer to implicit bias as a universal and widespread phenomenon and state that education and other systems were originally designed for populations that “are very different from those who attend our schools today”.
In a section on valuing diversity, the slides and audio include a statement that “because our culture has evolved from one that was primarily designed around white, middle-class systems to one that is much more multicultural, we We can no longer assume that every child will respond to the same strategies.
Additionally, both also reference national racial statistics on school suspensions and note that racial bias is implicated as a contributing factor to disproportionately higher suspension rates among Black, Hispanic, and Alaska Native students.
“When it comes to deviation and penalty data, the data is what it is,” Bacharach said. “However, under HB 1775 to draw certain conclusions about it would be a violation.”
Meanwhile, in a letter obtained separately Friday evening, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist formally asked the State Board of Education to reconsider its decisions to not only demote TPS accreditation, but also to accept the conclusion of the State Department of Education that the district violated HB 1775.
TPS School Board President Stacey Woolley sent a similar letter to the state school board earlier in the week. When she arrived on Friday evening, Woolley had not heard the audio of the workout when she made her request for reconsideration.
In his letter, Gist called the state board’s decision arbitrary and capricious, in part because its members did not have access to the audio of the training.
Citing a limited access agreement with the third-party provider, audio was not provided to state school board members during the July 28 meeting. This in turn prompted an objection from Tulsa-based board member Carlisha Williams Bradley, one of two board members who voted against downgrading TPS’s accreditation status.
“Clearly the OSDE erred in this determination because – from start to finish of the training video – the language written on the slides and the words heard in the audio are identical,” Gist wrote. “In other words, because the OSDE found that there were no violations of HB 1775 in the slides, there is in fact no way the audio could be illegal.
“While it is frustrating that the State Department misinterpreted the training message and also heard a sound that is no different from the words on the slides, it is completely unacceptable that such a misunderstanding should be the basis of its issuance of a lack of accreditation of any kind. It is even more egregious and outrageous for the State Board of Education to take the further step of increasing the penalty to a credentialing warning without seeing or hearing any training or even asking for the opportunity to see it.