The latest piece of Republican-sponsored legislation out of Oklahoma would penalize teachers, opening them up to litigation if they teach anything "in opposition" to students' religions.
The measure, sponsored by Rob Standridge, a Republican member of the Oklahoma State Senate, would empower parents to sue educators who teach anything “in opposition to closely held religious beliefs of students.” Parents could sue for $10,000 “per incident, per individual.”
Any fines incurred by teachers would need to be paid “from personal resources” and they cannot “receive any assistance from individuals or groups.”
Teachers who fail to pay these penalties, according to the proposed legislation, are subject to immediate termination and would receive a five-year ban from teaching.
Journalist Hemant Mehta, writing for the outlet OnlySky, offered a rather succinct explanation of how the legislation would ultimately handicap the learning process:
"A biology teacher who explains evolution could be ratted out by a Creationist who’s failing science class. A health teacher who educates students about different forms of birth control won’t be in that classroom for very long if an abstinence-promoting teenager is on the roster."
“A history teacher who correctly describes the Founding Fathers as a mix of religious and non-religious individuals could be a target of conservative evangelicals who believe Christian pseudo-historian David Barton’s lies.
"An English teacher who wants to challenge kids with controversial thought-provoking literature would be forced to stick to only the blandest books.”
Many have criticized Standridge and denounced the legislation as disastrous for education and a further example of the Republican-led effort to decimate public education.
Standridge has made headlines in recent weeks for sponsoring legislation critics have decried as draconian, detrimental to education, and perilous to public health.
In December, Standridge announced that he had filed legislation to "address indoctrination in Oklahoma schools." According to the Oklahoma State Senate's website, Senate Bill 1142 would prohibit public school districts, public charter schools, and public school libraries from
"...having or promoting books that address the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, gender identity, or books that contain content of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know about or approve of before their child was exposed to it."
The Senator, who has pushed back against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, also recently introduced legislation that would allow employees to make claims against businesses if they incur injury from being mandated to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
Standridge, whose family owns and runs a pharmacy, has said that those who require their employees to abide by vaccine mandates "should be liable for the results," stoking fears of adverse side-effects to vaccines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stressed are quite rare.