New Laws Creating Uncertainty as Students Return to School

Students in many of the state’s largest school districts return to classrooms this week, and this start of the school year is converging with a lot of uncertainty surrounding new state laws governing education.

First, there’s a law policing gender-specific school bathroom use, which my colleague, Ari Fife, wrote about last week. The law is vague and the state Education Department has not yet released its guidance on the issue, so many school leaders are unsure how to balance complying while maintaining an inclusive school environment.

Newcastle Public Schools Superintendent Melonie Hau said she’s concerned the law fosters a school culture that targets transgender students — who already face more bullying and have higher rates of attempted suicide.

“My job is not to be political, but to try to serve students and lead the district so that we can serve students the best way possible,” Hau said, according to the story. “And I would say that our focus always is going to be on what we need to do to help students feel welcome and to help students understand one another and build empathy for one another.” 

And some classroom teachers are now shelving lessons and novels that touch on issues of race for fear of running afoul of House Bill 1775, according to a recent story in The Oklahoman.

One teacher said she’s not assigning “Killers of the Flower Moon” to her 11th graders as previously planned because race is a prominent issue in the text. Another said she’s removing culturally relevant examples from math lessons and sticking to “plain, no-context, boring numbers.”

Parents: what are your biggest concerns as a new school year begins? As always, send me story ideas via email or DM. I’d love to hear from you.

— Jennifer Palmer

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