South Dakota’s Proposed Social Studies Standards Delayed After Passionate Hearing

Opponents voiced several complaints. Parents and others praised the standards.
Classroom Desk With Backpack
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(The Center Square) – The South Dakota Board of Education Standards is delaying implementation of proposed social studies standards, a decision that came after several hours of testimony Monday in Sioux Falls from those for and against the changes.

The standards were immediately scrutinized after the DOE released them in August, which was the second effort at new standards.

Gov. Kristi Noem scrapped ones created by a 50-member panel in 2021 and asked William Morrisey, a former professor at Hillsdale College, to lead a 15-member panel which developed the new standards. 

Monday was the second public meeting on the standards. The first hearing was held in Aberdeen in September. 

Opponents voiced several complaints. Some were concerned the standards on the elementary school level would be too difficult for students. Others said the subject of geography was ignored.  

Brian Wagner, education consultant for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, said the standards omit much of Native American History and present Native Americans as “warlike.” All nine of South Dakota’s tribes are opposed to the standards, Wagner told the board.

Ryan Rolfs, executive director of the South Dakota Education Association, said educators, who opposed the standards, want to be heard. They are asking for a weekend meeting of the board, he said. 

“Educators overwhelming believe this process has intentionally discouraged their voices from being heard,” Rolfs said. 

Parents and others praised the standards. 

“These are as strong as any social studies standards I have seen in the United States,” said David Steiner, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Professor of Education at Johns Hopkins University. “They would put your state, South Dakota, at the very forefront of what we know to work for young children. They neither whitewash nor indoctrinate. That’s a very difficult balance to achieve and these standards achieve it.”

The standards were scheduled to take effect in the 2024-2025 school year. The board voted to move that date to the 2025-2026 school year.

“We have listened to the concerns,” Malone said. “We have heard from educators during the two public hearings as well as the public comments we have received. We believe this additional time would help ease some of the concerns opponents have voiced.”

The public hearings would continue. One is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Pierre. A second hearing is scheduled for April 17 in Rapid City.

Kim Jarrett
Kim Jarrett's career spans over 30 years with stops in radio, print and television. She has won awards from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.

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