OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In an Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) Board meeting Thursday afternoon, new rules being imposed on parental rights and library media were voted on in which they both passed unanimously.
One of the proposed rules would allow parents the right to inspect sex and sexuality education material and opt out their children if they don’t like it. It would also require school districts to inform parents of a child’s developmental changes — including identity information — within 30 days of learning the info.
The conference room wasn’t nearly as packed with those in opposition to these rules as it was last Friday.
There was a long line trailing outside of the conference room. It filled up 20 minutes prior to the meeting.
A good chunk of the line didn’t make it inside and stood in the hallway, listening in.
Supt. Walters began the meeting by stating there would only be an hour available for public comment.
Most of those who did speak stated classrooms need to get back to the basics of math, reading, writing, and science.
One speaker, David McLain said the Oklahoma education system is more so filled with emotional topics nowadays.
McLain added, “It’s imperative that our parents have the right to teach the social cues [children] need.”
Another speaker, Erika Wright with the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition said she wasn’t in opposition of the proposed changes, but doesn’t believe this falls under the Board of Education’s purview.
Wright said there is an appropriate process to handle these types of changes and encouraged State Superintendent Ryan Walters follow it.
The other rule being presented pertains to library media.
Oklahoma school districts would be required to provide a list of books and other materials in libraries every year to the OSDE.
The purpose of this is to remove any and all sexual content found in school libraries.
Supt. Walters told the conference room full of on-lookers he would be presenting “disturbing” information about books found in Oklahoma schools.
He gave everyone the opportunity to step out of the room if they were easily “squeamish.”
Supt. Walters then clicked through a presentation where illustrations found in a few books including “Gender Queer” were seen by those in attendance.
The illustrations presented were extremely sexually graphic.
Supt. Walters insisted the media outlets present share the content with their viewers. With the content being so sexual, News 4 is unable to do so.
Supt. Walters was asked which schools the above pictured books were found in.
He wasn’t able to name specific schools, but did say finding the book in one classroom was enough for him to see.
Supt. Walters also admitted to not reading the entirety of the three books, but instead skimming through them.
He said what he saw told him enough and he felt there was no need to read the entire book.
He pointed out these three books and said they were a part of the reason behind the push for new rules involving library media.
However, in an unbinding opinion letter, Oklahoma’s Attorney General’s Office said Walters may not have the authority to implement these controversial new rules on topics like sex education and library books.
“I’m definitely satisfied with the opinion. It goes basically to what I’ve said all along,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore.
The Attorney General’s letter points out State Superintendent Ryan Walters may not have the authority to pursue new state agency rules on school library books some parents may consider pornographic. That’s something Rep. McBride said schools already have a safety net for.
“I think the State Department of Ed needs to quit trying to promulgate rules and do things like this and get back to the ABC’s the reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Rep. McBride.
McBride asked Oklahoma Attorney General Getner Drummond if the state law Walters cited in making new rules for the State Education Department is constitutional.
In a non-binding opinion, AG Drummond said the law shows the department has the power to “adopt policies and make rules” for public schools. He adds part of the law is “an overly broad unconstitutional delegation of power to the Board.”
However, the State Department of Education’s legal counsel cited current law in which the Board does have the power to propose these changes.
Their legal counsel also claiming a representative from the AG’s Office told him not to take their advisory opinion into consideration when moving forward with the proposed rules Thursday afternoon.
The AG’s Office told KFOR what their general counsel told OSDE is that the letter is broader than the scope.
“The letter was a response to a question about rule making authority, not about these specific rules,” an AG’s Office representative said.
After an hour of public comment, the vote passed unanimously.
Supt. Walters said these proposed changes will now head to the Legislature for deliberation.
He is confident it’ll pass and be signed into law by Governor Stitt fairly quickly.
Supt. Walters said the State Rules Committee could hear further discussion on these rules as early as next week.
A few other topics discussed include teacher unions and a new email address where parents can submit complaints to OSDE.
Supt. Walters said they’re continuing to work in the best interest of students. Therefore, they created an email address: Parentwatch@sde.ok.gov.
This email is intended to help the Board learn of underlying issues within schools and investigate them.
News 4 asked about the ongoing situation in Ringling involving a former football head coach.
Supt. Walters responded by saying they’re continuing to follow the investigation conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, but he couldn’t release much detail other than that.
On the topic of teacher unions, Supt. Walters stated he is working to ensure teaches’ unions can no longer pull money out of an educator’s paycheck.
The next OSDE Board meeting will be April 27 at 9:30 a.m.