The Oklahoma State Education Board downgrades Tulsa school district's accreditation over CRT complaint by teacher.
CNN  — 

Just weeks after Oklahoma’s governor called for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS), the State Board of Education voted to downgrade the district’s accreditation status for violating a law that restricts teachings on race and gender.

In a 4-2 vote on Thursday, the board based its decision to downgrade to “accreditation with warning” in response to a complaint stating a mandatory training session for teachers violated state law 1775.

A teacher filed the complaint with the state after she claimed training videos she was required to watch “…specifically shame white people for past offenses in history, and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature.”

This is the first penalty enforced against a district for violating HB 1775, according to the Oklahoman.

TPS issued a blistering response to the state board’s decision and said the schools “are teaching our children an accurate – and at times painful, difficult, and uncomfortable – history about our shared human experience,” according to the statement.

Oklahoma’s HB 1775, which does not include the term “critical race theory,” is intended to stop discrimination, according to the bill. If any educator teaches that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” they could be suspended or have their license removed, according to the law.

According to the Oklahoman, the training session the teacher complained about was “provided by a third-party vendor and took place in August 2021, before the administrative rules had taken effect. Those rules advise a school district be labeled ‘accredited with deficiency’ at minimum if it is found in violation of HB 1775.”

The TPS says it provided a training that included the topic of implicit bias. But, “it is clear there is no statement or sentiment pronounced that people are racist – due to their race or any other factor. We would never support such a training,” the statement says.

In its statement reacting to the state board’s decision, TPS took aim at the governor.

“It is notable that Governor Stitt’s state board of education spent significant time today talking about the complaints of one teacher in our district (among the hundreds of accreditation deficiencies statewide) and no time on the catastrophic teacher shortage facing every district in our state,” the statement said.

The Tulsa school district, which is one of the largest districts in the state and has a majority of minority students, according to available data, has come under scrutiny from the state in recent months.

Earlier this month, Gov, Stitt announced in a video message a special audit of the Tulsa school district for potentially mishandling of public funds and said he was concerned the district may have violated state law.

“At the request of two Tulsa School Board members, today I am calling for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools and the potential mishandling of public funds. As one of the largest districts in the state, TPS received over $200 million in COVID federal relief funds,” Stitt said

In a previous CNN interview, Deborah A. Gist, Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, called the governor’s call for an audit “baseless accusations.”

“We have excellent management of funds, and there is no basis for anyone to be questioning our management of those federal dollars,” Gist said. “There is no evidence to support anything that he is saying.”

“I welcome anyone who wants to come and take a careful review,” she said.

Late last year, a group of students and educators filed a complaint challenging the Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender, in what the American Civil Liberties Union called the first federal lawsuit to challenge such a statewide ban.

The suit – backed by the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Oklahoma state conference of the NAACP and the American Indian Movement (AIM) Indian Territory – sought to block enforcement of the law it says inhibits free speech and education of complete history through the framework of critical race theory.

CNN’s Raja Razek and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.