The Oklahoma House on Thursday passed a parental rights bill requiring public schools to allow parents to inspect and object to teachings about sexual orientation and gender identity. It also requires students to use bathrooms that match their gender.
The amendment specifying bathroom use was a last-minute addition by Republican Rep. John Talley of Stillwater and Republican Rep. Kevin West of Moore in response to the Stillwater School Board’s refusal to let students use the bathrooms of their choice.
Despite pressure from state Education Secretary Ryan Walters and Attorney General John O’Connor, the Stillwater School Board insists that letting students use the bathroom of their choice is protected by the Biden administration’s proposed version of Title IX.
It’s an issue that has plagued parents for months and puts the college town of nearly 50,000 people at the center of the culture war.
“Let’s protect our girls”
Riley Flack, whose 12-year-old daughter attends school in the Stillwater School District, was first told about the toilet policy by a friend whose granddaughter attends the same school as her daughter and was friends with a boy who now says he is a girl.
“It’s been stressful just because we know it’s crazy. And our kid is in the middle of it all,” Flack told The Federalist.
Flack said he had been skeptical of his school board for years, but the icing on the cake was when his friend was physically removed from a school board meeting over the bathroom issue for having shared a bible verse.
“There are negative consequences that are pretty clear… like
to abolish the definition in the sense of what a girl and a woman is is borderline absurd,” he said.
Ed Gallegos, another parent in the Stillwater Public School District, said he thinks the school board and administration “seem to have embraced early learning programs at the expense of the common good.”
“Our girls have a right to privacy, and we as parents and school district have an obligation to protect their health and safety,” he told The Federalist.
Gallegos spoke at several school board meetings but said his concerns were ignored by the administration. It was then that he helped create Stillwaterparents.com, a website dedicated to “shed light on the policies and practices in place at Stillwater Public Schools so that parents and guardians are fully informed.” The website features fact sheets detailing Stillwater District’s responses to parents and even a petition to “Protect Our Girls.”
“The school board tried to deny that they knew this was happening in schools in the district. Once the issue was exposed, they tried not to take ownership of the policy by stating that they were bound to the policy by court precedent and the mandate of the state school board. Neither turned out to be true,” Gallegos said.
‘Oklahoma not Wokelahoma’
Under Title IX, schools and other educational institutions that receive federal funding are prohibited from discrimination based on sex. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in March 2021 that spelled out his intention to rewrite the federal rule and expand its definitions to include so-called gender identity. It’s an overhaul that nearly 30 parent advocacy organizations strongly oppose and which Walters says is being misinterpreted by the school board.
“It was far-left woke extremism that targeted this school district and found a weak board,” Walters told The Federalist.
In a letter to the school board in early April, Walters said the school board had an “incorrect interpretation” of Title IX and that the district had “no right to allow men to use the girls’ restroom in our schools”.
“The US Department of Education rules, which your school board says ordered this travesty, simply allowed school districts to choose their own path — and Stillwater chose poorly,” Walters wrote. “You chose radicals over your students, ideology over biology, and ‘revival’ over security.”
Walters and AG O’Connor wrote letters to the school board demanding that they require students to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender.
Instead, the five-member school board demanded more clarity of the Oklahoma Department of Education and the State Board of Education, which Stillwater Superintendent Gay Washington says is responsible for issuing the general pro-LGBT restroom guidelines that govern the district “for years”.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, recently confirmed that she believes the Stillwater School Board has a “legal precedent,” which she says “addressed the need for equal access, including to facilities,” even after admitting that “no legal precedent on this topic currently exists in Oklahoma.
Walters, who is running for state superintendent, said Hofmeister is only obstructing further state-level action on the issue by “muddying the waters.”
“I issued directives, I pushed, and what she did was come in and undermine them and say, ‘well, actually, it’s not clear,'” said Walters at The Federalist.
Hofmeister did not respond to a request for comment.
As far as Walters knows, Stillwater is the only district in the state that allows boys to use the girls’ restroom and vice versa, but he said that doesn’t excuse the school board’s blockage.
“Instead of fighting with parents who have clearly spoken, they side with a very small radical group because they’re just afraid to stand up,” Walters said.
The school board’s conduct has also been condemned by several Republican Senate candidates vying to represent Oklahoma in the U.S. Congress. TW Shannon’s campaign told The Federalist it believes: ‘We have already seen the terrible consequences of left-wing woke politics in cases where students have been sexually assaulted in school and school board restrooms. corrupt leftists hid it to protect their revival. program and their willingness to promote transgender ideology in classrooms.
Luke Holland told The Federalist that the school board is “choosing woke politics over science” in what has proven to be “another example of the radical left’s endless assault on core Christian values on which this great country was founded”.
“Girls shouldn’t be allowed in boys’ toilets, and boys shouldn’t be allowed in girls’ toilets – it’s as simple as that. It’s biology. Whether it’s sports, toilets or birth certificates, the left continues to push its anti-God agenda, but it harms our children by adding to the problems they face,” he said.
Nathan Dahm said the school board has ‘completely failed to protect its students’ and lamented the ‘Republican’ leadership of the state Senate, which he says ‘does not want to address these issues’ .
“They would rather leave it to local school boards so these bad decisions can be made, but they can dismiss it as not their responsibility,” Dahm said.
Scott Pruitt told The Federalist that he believes “access to private facilities in public schools, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, participation in a sports team, accommodations for night school trips and ‘other similar circumstances should be based on biological sex’.
“And likewise, I believe the only people who should talk to young children about gender and sex issues are their parents,” he added.
The Federalist did not receive a comment from candidate Markwayne Mullin.
Jordan Boyd is an editor at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. His work has also been featured in The Daily Wire and Fox News. Jordan is a graduate of Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.