Kristi Noem called for a ban on drag performances at public universities in a memo that also touted efforts to protect "free speech" on college campuses.Noem released a memo on Friday detailing new plans to improve higher education in South Dakota, which currently has a 6-year graduation rate below the national average.
In the memo, Noem calls for a flurry of new policies aimed at making the state a model for "strong, conservative" higher education.
Noem's plan, however, is also facing scrutiny for allegedly calling for restrictions on LGBTQ+ students' rights, including the removal of any mentions of "preferred pronouns" in school materials and a ban on drag shows.Noem's higher education plans come amid an ongoing debate about how issues of sexual orientation and gender identity should be approached in a broad range of institutions, including colleges, which have long sought to strike a balance between safeguards for LGBTQ+ students and the free speech of those who oppose the expansion of rights for the LGBTQ+ community.Republican-led states have emphasized efforts to protect those "free speech" rights while also rolling back protections for the LGBTQ+ community in schools, saying that educational institutions should not be engaged in "divisive" topics.
Critics, meanwhile, have accused GOP lawmakers of targeting an already-marginalized group, calling for stronger protections against discrimination against LGBTQ+ students.Noem, a social conservative who has been named as a potential future presidential candidate, expressed opposition to drag shows in her education plan while also calling on the removal of "any policies" that "prohibit" students from expressing their free speech rights."The Board of Regents should go.