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Gov. Noem asks to delay social studies standards change
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Gov. Noem asks to delay social studies standards change

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SIOUX FALLS | South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced Monday that she has instructed the Department of Education to delay changes to the state's social studies standards up to one year to allow for more public input.

Noem's move comes as groups on both sides have criticized Noem's approach to the standards process, including a column from the National Review arguing "hard-left activists" have taken over the process.

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Her move also follows recent calls for her resignation made by the South Dakota Education Equity Coalition during an education rally in Pierre last Monday, and recent venue changes to the first hearing on the standards planned for Aberdeen next month after the DOE reported it's seen nearly 600 public comments on the standards already.

“The Department of Education changed the working group’s recommendations to the social studies standards significantly, but it is clear to me that there needs to be more public input to bring greater balance and emphasis on our nation’s true and honest history," Noem said in a news release. "Following public feedback from several constituencies, it is clear there is more work to be done to get this right."

The DOE announced it was moving the first hearing to a larger venue a month later, likely to accommodate for more public comments, considering the nearly 600 submitted online and the more than 200 marchers who showed up in Pierre last week.

It's unclear when and where future hearings will be set up in the next year's time.

A review of the comments show the majority are in opposition to the proposed standards, in which the DOE removed more than a dozen explicit references to education on the Oceti Sakowin, initially included in an early draft proposed by a workgroup tasked with retooling the standards.

“We will be delaying further formal action on the draft social study standards to allow more opportunity for public input, increased legislative engagement, and additional voices to be heard in this discussion," Noem said in a statement. “Our focus remains the same: ensuring that South Dakota students learn a true and honest account of American and South Dakota history.”

Meanwhile, Candi Brings Plenty, a member of the SDEEC and indigenous justice organizer with the ACLU of South Dakota, said Noem knows "she's in for a battle."

"She has awakened a sleeping giant," Brings Plenty said. "We have finally been counted to a sufficient standard this past census and now she sees the numbers. We will vote her out."

Noem intends to ask the South Dakota legislature to pass legislation codifying Executive Order 2021-11, which she signed in late July and prohibits any curriculum requiring or encouraging students to take positions against one another on the basis of race, sex or the historical activity of members of a student's race or sex.

That executive order also prevents schools from "politicizing education" by prohibiting curriculum requiring students to protest or lobby during or after school.

Noem also plans to ban critical race theory and action civics as the basis for instruction in South Dakota schools. Education leaders have said CRT is mostly taught in higher education, but also isn't the basis for instruction in the state's six public universities.

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