An Oklahoma nonprofit is announcing a new legal fund to protect teachers accused of violating House Bill 1775, which restricts critical classroom discussions about race or sex.
The program will be funded by donations and run by the nonprofit organization Oklahoma Appleseed. The group will provide legal representation for teachers targeted for defamation, discipline or dismissal for “common, accepted or constitutionally protected speech or activities in the classroom.”
“The primary role of the Freedom to Teach Fund is to initiate and support litigation that enforces teachers’ constitutional rights to free speech and their due process rights to maintain their teaching certification,” the organization’s website states.
The announcement comes on the heels of Ryan Walters’ election victory for state superintendent. After the resignation earlier this year of a Norman teacher who shared access to free library books, Walters falsely claimed she was fired and asked to have her teaching certification stripped.
Leslie Briggs, the incoming legal director of Oklahoma Appleseed, said teachers are entitled to due process before losing their licenses, and the stakes in Oklahoma are high.
“We know that public schools are the lifeblood of civic engagement,” Briggs said in a press briefing. “We know that a public education that is robust, that is of high quality, that introduces competing ideas, creates a generation of critical thinkers who can engage and self-govern. With this fund we are going to help protect that system.”
Donations to the legal fund open on Giving Tuesday – November 29 – and can be made here.
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