Legal update by Madalynn Martin, Associate General Counsel
Do you know that each school district in Oklahoma is required to formally observe Veterans Day annually?
Oklahoma statutes (70 O.S. § 24-152) state that on Nov. 11 every year school districts must honor Veterans Day. On Veterans Day, schools must “conduct and observe an appropriate program of at least one class period remembering and honoring American veterans.” The week that Veterans Day falls on is designated “Celebrate Freedom Week.”
This law was enacted “[i]n order to educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom on behalf of this country and the values on which this country was founded . . .”
The required program must include “grade-appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts.” This instruction on these historical texts can include “the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the United States Constitution, and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement and the passage of civil rights legislation.” Moreover, instruction shall not censor the religious references in the historical texts.
Schools may choose to allow a one-minute of silence beginning at 11 a.m. which serves to “educate students about the termination of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, which was first recognized by President Woodrow Wilson on the first anniversary of the truce in a proclamation eulogizing fallen Allied soldiers and referring to Nov. 11 as Armistice Day.”
In addition to the moment of silence and the class period instruction on the historical texts, students in grades three through 12 must also study and recite the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
While these are the requirements under Oklahoma law, Professional Oklahoma Educators knows this is only a fraction of the celebrations teacher’s give to our veterans each year on Veterans Day. Along with our teachers, Professional Oklahoma Educators loves celebrating our veterans. We are extra thankful to all of our teachers who put in extra time and work to celebrate veterans and to teach our students about the importance of Veterans Day. Finally, thank you to our veterans.