Academic Freedom

ACLU Sues Oklahoma Over Its Critical Race Theory Ban

The ACLU and other civil rights organizations are suing the state of Oklahoma over a law that prohibits certain types of instruction around race and gender.

Filed on October 19th in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the state’s governor, attorney general, and more than a dozen top education officials, the suit alleges that the law violates students’ and educators’ First and 14th Amendment rights.

HB 1775, which took effect in July,“ severely restricts discussions on race and gender in Oklahoma’s elementary, secondary, and higher education schools without any legitimate pedagogical justification, using language that is simultaneously sweeping and unclear,” the suit alleges. 

“The Act’s vague, overbroad, and viewpoint discriminatory provisions leave Oklahoma educators with an impossible—and unconstitutional—choice: avoid topics related to race or sex in class materials and discussions or risk losing their teaching licenses for violating the law,” the complaint reads.

Oklahoma is one of five GOP-controlled states that have passed laws limiting how teachers can instruct around matters of race and gender.  Iowa, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Idaho have also passed similar laws. 

The suit against Oklahoma is the first federal lawsuit filed against a state for limiting instruction around gender and for its anti-critical race theory law. Critical race theory was developed in the 1970s and ‘80s, and is based on the viewpoint that racism is systemic in American institutions and serves to maintain white’s dominance in the culture and economy.

The ACLU and the other organizations are seeking a preliminary injunction that would block the law from being enforced.


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