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Norman representative scrutinizes House Bill 1775, meets with OU faculty

Jacob Rosecrants

Oklahoma Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) during the Undergraduate Student Congress 2022 post-election forum on Dec. 5.

Oklahoma Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman) met with OU faculty Friday to discuss “the dangers” of House Bill 1775.

The talk, titled HB 1775: A Clear and Present Danger to Academic Freedom, was hosted by OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors. HB 1775 bans schools from teaching that a person, because of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, either knowingly or unknowingly.

The bill experienced pushback from representatives like Rosecrants who said the bill's vague language creates a “chilling effect” on teachers where they’re stuck wondering whether they’ve broken the law. 

“Professors don't know if what they're teaching is legal or not and there's been no clarification,” Michael Givel, OU political science professor and president of OU AAUP, said. “It has created chaos and uncertainty.”

Summer Boismier, a former Norman High School English teacher, resigned amid allegations she violated HB 1775 last August. Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters later called for the state Board of Education to revoke her license, saying there is no place in Oklahoma for a teacher with a “liberal political agenda.” 

Also in early August 2022, the Oklahoma State Board of Education, led by Walters, voted to downgrade both Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools for having violated the bill. 

Rosecrants said he’s fighting the bill with House Bill 1031, the Restoration of Sanity in Education Act, which aims to repeal HB 1775.

Betty Harris, an OU anthropology professor, said she raised concerns about how the new law could affect her course, and others like it, that address race and ethnicity. She also said students could abuse HB 1775 to report professors. 

“You get a little paranoid about who's in your class because someone can be quiet and even interested and cooperative,” Harris said. “They look that way at least and report you at the end of the semester.” 

Rosecrants said the “issues” HB 1775 aims to combat are nonexistent in Oklahoma. 

“When you’re being told something’s happening by not only people that you know, but also your elected officials and from the news 24/7, then you’re going to start to believe these things are happening,” Rosecrants said. 

This story was edited by Alexia Aston, Karoline Leonard and Jazz Wolfe.

news reporter

Caleb Wortz is a journalism senior and a news reporter at the Daily. He started at the Daily in the spring of 2022. He is originally from Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

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