OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- For months, State Superintendent Ryan Walters has claimed pornography is running rampant through Oklahoma schools, but the State Department of Education’s spokesman refused to provide News 4 with a list specifying which schools had pornography on their shelves.

After the March 23 State Department of Education Board meeting, Supt. Walters was asked what schools in particular are carrying pornography on their shelves.

“I think if it’s in one school library, if it’s in one classroom, it’s too much,” he replied. “What I’m telling you is we’re getting this on a weekly basis of examples of those type of books. I just rolled out a few that we could pick fairly quickly, so it’s hard to tell, but one is too many.”

News 4 requested a list of information from the State Department of Education (OSDE) on Sunday.

We wanted to know what specific schools have been found in violation, who the teachers are facing disciplinary action for having such books in their classrooms, and what districts are potentially facing a downgrade in accreditation for allowing the books to be present.

An OSDE spokesperson, Justin Holcomb then called News 4 with a response Wednesday morning.

He explained over the phone inappropriate reading material had been found in Oklahoma City and Tulsa Public Schools.

Holcomb added Superintendent Walters’ administration has found several books children should not be allowed to read while in school.

News 4 asked that information be sent via email for quoting purposes.

Holcomb proceeded to say he thought a phone conversation would be suffice, but that he’d send a written statement to fulfill the request.

“The books mentioned were found throughout Oklahoma, primarily in Tulsa Public Schools. The introduced rule will make it to where parents get to decide which books are allowed in school,” said Holcomb via text.

News 4 hopped back on a call with Holcomb to ask why a list of specific schools were not provided.

Holcomb said OSDE didn’t want to rehash the past and “drag them through the mud” since everything had already been handled.

He claims the books have since been turned over to OSDE.

He did provide News 4 with a few other districts including Oklahoma City, Owasso, Bixby, and Stillwater.

Holcomb then suggested News 4 do their own research to find the answers to our questions since what we were looking for has already been “riddled” through the press.

He added it would be a “waste of taxpayer dollars” for him to do a deep dive into News 4’s request.

Holcomb suggested News 4 also research the information online because it was publicly available.

He sent News 4 an article from July 2022 that was written by a Tulsa news station not affiliated with KFOR.

News 4 is unable to cite information found by a non-affiliated media outlet and Holcomb was made aware.

Even then, the news article did not present specific schools in violation, just school districts.

The request was ultimately not fulfilled after going back and forth with Holcomb.

News 4 reached out to the five school districts in question of recently having pornography within their schools and received a response from four of them.

An Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) representative said they have never received a formal complaint from OSDE while Supt. Walters has been in office.

There was a complaint made by Supt. Walters on Twitter when a right-wing profile made claims of a book called Let’s Talk About It being offered in the OKC school district.

“This book that has been allowed in the Oklahoma City Public Schools that was uncovered by Libs of TikTok called Let’s Talk About It is grossly inappropriate for our kids,” Supt. Walters started the video off with.

His complaint was posted to Twitter on Feb. 7.

OKCPS told KFOR the book in question was available to students from January 2022 to May 2022.

The book was removed last August during former State Supt. Joy Hofmeister’s time in office.

An internal OKCPS audit was done which resulted in the book being removed.

The screenshot that circulated around social media showing OKCPS had the book on shelves was from a digital catalogue.

The OKCPS representative said it did pop up in the catalogue, but it wasn’t offered to students at the time.

When the book was available, there was only one copy in one school library.

That one copy was checked out once by an 18-year-old student, according to OKCPS.

The school district said they have yet to see a “banned book” list from the OSDE.

OKCPS also told News 4 Supt. Walters has only ever been in one of their schools since taking office.

It wasn’t to review their books, but rather to read one to a group of Heronville Elementary students on March 2.

  • State Superintendent Ryan Walters at Heronville Elementary. Photo courtesy: Ryan Walters.
  • State Superintendent Ryan Walters at Heronville Elementary. Photo courtesy: Ryan Walters.
  • State Superintendent Ryan Walters at Heronville Elementary. Photo courtesy: Ryan Walters.

News 4 spoke with a representative from Stillwater Public Schools Wednesday afternoon.

They said the information News 4 was provided with from the OSDE is false.

Stillwater Public Schools has never had to review a book until this school year, according to the district.

They said they have received a number of complaints, but so far, only one has been “valid.”

The book in question was called 17 Guides To Sex In Our Body. The book was only offered in the middle school parent section.

The book was meant to act as a resource to parents who needed to brush up on their anatomy when going over those topics with their children.

SPS said that book hasn’t been on their shelves in years though. It was showing up on their digital catalogue, but it was not available.

SPS also told KFOR Supt. Walters has not visited their district since taking office nor has he or the OSDE spoken with any of their administrative staff.

They have also not been provided with a “banned books” list.

As soon as one comes out, SPS said they’re more than happy to comply, but right now there isn’t such a list that exists so they’re not sure which books are deemed “inappropriate” in the state’s eyes.

News 4 also spoke with Bixby Public Schools Superintendent Rob Miller.

He admitted two of their books, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl plus 13 Reasons Why were reviewed after receiving a patron complaint.

After a thorough investigation, the school district voted to keep these books on their shelves.

There’s one copy of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. There are two copies of 13 Reasons Why.

Since the books have been made available, no one has checked out either, according to Supt. Miller.

13 Reasons Why is also only offered to their high schoolers.

Supt. Miller said he never received a formal complaint from OSDE about either book.

He told KFOR this was solely an internal investigation. There was no direction or guidance provided by the OSDE.

Supt. Miller said their school district is being forced to walk a thin line on reading materials because of the recent conversations had at the OSDE.

He added there are students in his districts, ages 18 and 19 who are enrolled in AP classes that contain content suitable for adults.

Those books, including the two that were reviewed by a Review Committee have been “re-coated” as mature.

That means those books labeled “mature” can only be checked out by a student 18 years or older.

Anyone younger must have parental consent to check out those books.

Supt. Miller also said BPS parents have access to their district’s full catalogue of reading materials and have the ability to control the reading materials their student can view.

Unfortunately, Supt. Miller said that tool has yet to be used.

News 4 asked Supt. Miller about the claims of pornography on their shelves to which he stated they have never allowed those types of books in.

Their libraries are actively reviewing any and all books that come through their system.

BPS wants to make sure they’re meeting “community standards.”

The double edged sword to that: Supt. Miller said they don’t want to leave out parts of the community just because it doesn’t meet standards.

Supt. Miller told KFOR Supt. Walters hasn’t been to their district so far.

Since Supt. Walters was sworn into office, Supt. Miller said there has been no communication from the OSDE to their school district and the “support has lessened since his arrival.”

Supt. Miller went on to say Critical Race Theory doesn’t exist and pornography in schools doesn’t exist.

“[Supt. Walters] is creating an issue that doesn’t exist,” Supt. Miller said.

Instead of discussing potential pornography in schools, Supt. Miller wishes the OSDE would focus on the teacher shortage.

News 4 spoke with a Tulsa Public Schools Media Relations representative who said she was thrown off by KFOR’s inquiry into the situation because OSDE hasn’t made them aware of any recent complaints.

She said Supt. Walters visited their school district once while he was campaigning for office, but has not been been by since becoming State Superintendent.

All four school districts tell News 4 there hasn’t been a list provided explaining which books cannot be available.

News 4 has reached out to Owasso Public Schools for comment, but haven’t heard back yet.

Outside of the school districts found in violation provided by Holcomb, News 4 also reported on Norman Public Schools offering a book deemed “inappropriate.”

News 4 has made an Open Records Request with the OSDE for a list of specifics.

The deadline for that request is April 10.