OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The State Board of Education unanimously passed an emergency rule in September prohibiting school districts from changing student gender records, and the State Superintendent doubled down Thursday saying he will not play the “transgender game.”
During the September 28 Board of Education meeting, the Board moved on general provisions for student records. With the Governor’s support, it went into effect October 5.
On the agenda for the Board’s October meeting were requests from Moore Public Schools and Cushing Public Schools to alter students’ gender records.
The Executive Director for Freedom Oklahoma, Nicole McAfee, explained how using someone’s correct pronouns and gender allows that individual to feel safe and seen.
“To have people see that is really important to being seen as yourself and to having access to learn and grow in a space where you know there’s shared respect for your basic human dignity,” stated McAfee.
However, State Superintendent Ryan Walters sees it as a culture war.
“I believe we’ve got to continue to stand in line in the way, I would say, of these radical leftist Biden judges that are sitting here trying to dictate this to our schools,” said Supt. Walters. “I think this is a great opportunity to show the districts – look, we’re absolutely going to stand for common sense. We’re going to stand against this. We’re not going to do the transgender game of back and forth, back and forth. We’ll be clear on this and stand with common sense and Oklahomans. We’re not going to allow the intimidation of our schools.”
With the guidance of the State Department of Education’s legal counsel, Bryan Cleveland, the Board unanimously rejected the two requests.
“It’s certainly upsetting, though not surprising. We went in knowing this was sort of the first time this new emergency rule was going to be used. To see the board choose not to even look at the individual cases or try to understand what the students were asking for is upsetting. To hear the State Superintendent double down on saying they would willingly ignore court orders for gender marker corrections and force school districts to misgender students is certainly a concerning policy,” said McAfee.
McAfee told KFOR the misgendering of students can lead to an increase in suicides.
“We’ll continue to talk with legal organizations more specifically about what options might be for students who are facing this force mass gendering. We’ll continue to provide resources for educators, students and families alike. We hold virtual monthly spaces where people can come get resources and just talk to other folks who are trying to figure out what to do in this current environment,” added McAfee.
When Supt. Walters was asked in a Thursday press conference if there would be any situation where he’d approve a similar request from a school district on altering a student’s recorded sex, he said, “We don’t want this issue being thrust upon kids. We don’t want it in the curriculum. We don’t want it in the text. We don’t want it in the novels.”
In addition to the rejected requests, Supt. Walters criticized Stillwater Public Schools for a letter the district’s Superintendent recently sent to parents.
“We’ve received several messages and complaints from parents in Stillwater about an email that was sent out by the Stillwater Superintendent that appears to be their attempt to circumvent this board’s rules around notifying parents about behavior going on with their children. This will not be tolerated and I will not stand for it. Parents have spoken loudly and very clearly that they want to know what’s going on in their children’s education. They want a seat at the table and they are the ultimate deciders,” stated Supt. Walters.
He described the letter as slamming and undermining Stillwater Public Schools parents.
“We will not allow any rogue administrator to undermine these rules and we will take that on very directly,” said Supt. Walters.
News 4 immediately reached out to Stillwater Public Schools Public Relations and Communications Coordinator, Barry Fuxa, for a copy of the letter.
In summary, the letter discusses the Board’s new emergency rule on prohibiting districts from altering student gender records.
The letter also states in the event a student expresses to a school staff member information that is “reasonably expected to be important to parents,” that information will be conveyed to parents/guardians.
Such information may include a request to change pronouns and pregnancy.
“Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters criticized an email message that Superintendent Gordon sent earlier this week to district parents, guardians, and district staff, stating it appears to be an ‘attempt to circumvent’ the OSDE’s ‘rules around notifying parents about behavior going on with their children,'” stated Fuxa. “We’re somewhat confused as to how the message was interpreted that way.”
Fuxa went on to say the district intends to comply with OSDE rules.
“We are disappointed that this message was not clear enough in those regards,” added Fuxa. “While we are prohibited by the new rules (again, with which we fully intend to comply) from keeping their information private from their parents, we can connect them with resources for their safety. Student safety and well being is always our primary concern.”
“How do we empower families? How do we give families more rights, more power? You hear me talk about school choice. I want parents to be in control of every part of their kid’s education. So when you have a district that points to the Parent Bill of Rights we have instituted here with our rules and say, ‘Look, you know, sometimes we follow this, but there are some situations where we don’t.’ It’s outrageous. You go to parents first. We’re not going to tolerate that. We’ve been crystal clear as a board,” stated Supt. Walters.
The school district told News 4 it understands the emergency rule as it’s having to go through the State Department of Education. They do not intend to ask for permission.