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Gov. Kristi Noem signs bill limiting public universities from requiring CRT trainings

The bill that South Dakota's governor signed into law on Monday does limit seven so-called "divisive concepts" from being foisted upon students in orientations or trainings on the state's public universities or technical school campuses.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to the media on Feb. 3, 2022, at the Statehouse in Pierre.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has signed a bill her office says will thwart trainings of critical race theory on public, post-secondary campuses across the state.

Noem signed House Bill 1012 , a measure "to protect students and employees at institutions of higher education from divisive concepts," on Monday, March 21, according to a statement from her office.

In the same message to the media , Noem's office says the measure codifies language that "prohibits colleges from requiring students and teachers to attend trainings or orientations based on Critical Race Theory."

"No student or teachers should have to endorse Critical Race Theory to attend, graduate from, or teach at our public universities," Noem said in a statement accompanying the news release. "College should remain a place where freedom of thought and expression are encouraged, not stifled by political agendas."

The text of the bill, which was heavily edited by the state Legislature, doesn't mention the words "critical race theory" anywhere in its final form. After the measure passed the House of Representatives last month , the chamber approved a title change to accurately reflect the bill's impact.

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In lieu of the tenets of " critical race theory ," which is a decades-old legal approach that posits racism is a social construct produced by political and economic systems rather than individual prejudices, HB 1012 lists seven ideas labeled "divisive concepts" that teachers of mandated trainings cannot impose upon students.

One "divisive concept" says that an individual "should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" because of that individual's race or religion. Other banned concerts include blanket assertions of racial supremacy, or that one's race or ethnicity is inherently linked to and even guilty of past sins by his or her race.

The South Dakota Board of Regents supplied political support for the bill's passage in both chambers, while noting the measure did not touch the prerogatives of a professor in her or his classroom.

In fact, the bill explicitly exempts the "content or conduct" of any course of study from the divisive concept ban.

In a statement to Forum News Service, South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Director Berk Ehrmantraut said the state should be investing in higher education, not "attacking educators."

"This is just another example of Gov. Noem making up problems to divide South Dakotans for national attention," Ehrmantraut said.

A companion bill that would have more directly affected teaching in the K-12 environment failed by a vote in the Senate Education committee.

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

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MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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