OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved a controversial sex education bill with a new amendment to regulate school bathrooms.
Senate Bill 615 would require sex education materials used in school counselor-led meetings or classes to be inspected by the student’s parents or legal guardian. This includes topics like sexual orientation and gender identity.
“All this is about is trying to protect the family and tradition,” said the bill’s author, State Representative Danny Williams, R-Seminole. “This is a way to say ‘don’t talk about this stuff with these kids until their parents say you can and if they say you cannot, you cannot.’”
The new amendment filed by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, would require schools to enforce a ‘biological sex’ bathroom policy.
Public schools, and public charter schools, that serve enrolled students in prekindergarten through twelfth grades, shall designate restrooms and changing facilities, that are intended to accommodate multiple individuals, as follows: 1. For the exclusive use of the male sex; or 2. For the exclusive use of the female sex. D. Individuals at a public school or public charter school shall use the restroom or changing facility that corresponds to the individual’s biological sex or “single-use” restrooms, if available. E. Each school district board of education shall adopt a policy to provide disciplinary action for individuals who refuse to comply with the provisions in this act.
This follows questions surrounding the State’s guidance on bathroom policies after Stillwater Public Schools received letters from the Secretary of Education and Attorney General telling the district to end a policy it’s had since 2015 that allows transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
The Stillwater Board of Education approved a resolution on April 18 requesting the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) and State Board of Education to take up emergency rules on restroom policy.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said April 23 she wanted a formal written opinion from AG John O’Connor on whether districts may set their own policies for restroom use.
“The answers to these questions will not only provide the crystal-clear guidance sought and will come in the form of a binding opinion on those in Oklahoma who have historically implemented and enforced Title IX and related laws on these matters,” Hofmeister wrote to O’Connor. “Your attention and expeditious review of these matters are sincerely appreciated.”
Yesterday, the Office of Attorney General sent a letter to Oklahoma House members following their own request for guidance.
While O’Connor said he will not issue a formal opinion on the matter “because this office does not formally opine on issues where legislation is pending, and it is our understanding that legislation is currently being considered on these topics,” he did indicate that there is “no current Oklahoma law expressly governs the practice of opening school restrooms to students based on their self-identity.”
Superintendent Hoffmeister was unsatisfied, however.
“While no legal precedent on this topic currently exists in Oklahoma, other appellate courts around the nation have largely weighed in with rulings that appear to support the current policy of Stillwater Public Schools,” said Hoffmeister. “Clarity is important here – and it is wholly appropriate that the Attorney General issue a binding formal opinion when requested to do so by an elected official. Indeed, it is his responsibility to do so.”
The bill goes back to the Senate for amendment approval.