OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- The Oklahoma State Board of Education held their monthly meeting Thursday morning and on the agenda was a slew of hot topics, including possible action regarding Mustang and Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation.
In last month’s meeting, the board decided to downgrade Tulsa and Mustang’s accreditation for violating HB1775.
That new law outlines:
It shall be the policy of the Oklahoma State Board of Education to prohibit
discrimination on the basis of race or sex in the form of bias, stereotyping, scapegoating,
classification, or the categorical assignment of traits, morals, values, or characteristics based
solely on race or sex. Public schools in this state shall be prohibited from engaging in race or
sex-based discriminatory acts by utilizing these methods, which result in treating individuals
differently on the basis of race or sex or the creation of a hostile environment.
MPS’s HB1775 violation stems from a January classroom activity, sometimes called a “privilege walk.”
The game allows students to explore if they’ve experienced discrimination or bullying, or even caused other to feel that way.
“This was a voluntary assignment. Any kid didn’t have to participate in it at any time. They could have pulled themselves out of it and there was no grade anything like that. This doesn’t even meet the first line of the rules to warrant punishment. That doesn’t change the fact that at the local level, we have that ability to judge whether an assignment is appropriate or not,” stated Mustang Public Schools Superintendent Bradley.
Supt. Bradley told KFOR it was an “isolated incident,” that the game in question was removed immediately, and the situation was resolved within two days.
Supt. Bradley said a parent complained five months after the incident had occurred that this had not been addressed with the board.
The HB1775 violation that put TPS in the hot seat was when a teacher complained that a training video violated the new state law.
According to Supt. Bradley, there are four levels to accreditation downgrading. Those levels include accreditation with deficiency, accreditation with warning, accreditation with probation, and non-accredited.
MPS and TPS are on level three: accreditation with warning.
“The analogy I use is we are going up to bat with two strikes on us and we haven’t even gotten in the batter’s box. I have no idea what triggers or what pushes a district into that next phase of probation,” said Supt. Bradley.
Both Supt. Bradley and TPS Supt. Deborah Gist told the board they believe they didn’t violate the law though, and that their prior and current teaching complies with the rules.
District Superintendents, parents, attorneys, and even the Mayor of Mustang took the podium expressing why the board should reconsider their previous decision.
“I know they are committed to the best for my kids and thousands of other students,” a MPS parent told the board.
Supt. Bradley and Supt. Gist said they weren’t asking the board to change their decision, but to simply further discuss the matter at hand.
“It is my belief if you allow due process, this board will discover that Mustang handled the situation in a manner that would serve as a model for other school districts to handle these instances at the local level,” Supt. Bradley explained to the board.
In a 2-3 vote, the motion failed though forcing the two districts to carry this accreditation through the school year. The two who voted for reconsideration were State Supt. Joy Hofmeister and Carlisha Williams Bradley.
The three who voted against it were Trent Smith, Brian Bobek, and Sarah Lepak.
There wasn’t an explanation given on why reconsideration was not approved.
“I’m surprised not just at the decision, but also the behavior of the board. I’m deeply disappointed,” Supt. Gist told KFOR.
Supt. Bradley also he was disappointed and a bit “dismayed over the apparent unwillingness to just listen to the facts.”
According to State Supt. Joy Hofmeister’s office, there is no formal appeals process in place for future requests. They also said the accreditation cannot be requested for reconsideration again until July 2023.
“We’re just going to move on down the road. And what we’re going to do is continue to do what we do best, and that’s just educating our kids,” added Supt. Bradley.
Supt. Gist said TPS will continue to stay focused on their students and serving them to the best of their abilities.
“Serving them in the ridiculous and horrible conditions that Oklahoma continues to put in front of teachers and support employees who serve our kids every day,” she added.
Supt. Gist explained to KFOR they are looking at their options moving forward, including legal action.
After Thursday morning’s decision, Supt. Bradley said, “It puts all school districts on notice that if we get a complaint and we are going to punish it and it’s okay if we don’t have all the facts when we make that decision. I think that’s the message that most school districts heard.”