Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters voiced strong criticism of a school district he suspects is trying to bypass a state policy requiring parental notification for kids’ gender and pronoun changes.
During the Oklahoma State Department of Education board meeting last week, Walters expressed concern over an email sent out by Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Uwe Gordon about the policy, according to Stillwater News Press.
“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,” Walters said. “This will not be tolerated, and I will not stand for it. Parents have spoken loudly and very clear 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.
“The fact that they would send out an email that would slam parents, undermine parents, and attempt to circumvent these rules is a great measure of concern, and I will always stand with parents. I know this Board has taken very deliberate action to ensure that parents’ rights are protected, and we will not allow any rogue administrator to undermine these rules and we will take that on very directly.”
In September, the OSDE passed an emergency rule that prohibits school districts from changing students’ gender records without the approval from the State Board of Education.
The Stillwell district claimed it would comply with the emergency rule and inform parents when it’s “reasonably expected to be important to parents” in the email, implying it may not comply with the rule in some cases.
“We value strong partnership with families, and our staff is happy to engage in productive communication with parents/guardians that provide loving support to their children and to connect them to resources to help navigate complex issues,” the letter states. “Sadly, sometimes parents, guardians, or other family members may react negatively, and in the worst cases, violently, to learning unexpected information about a child.
“Students will be told that such information must be shared with their parents/guardians. If a student expresses that sharing such information might create an unsafe environment for them, our counselors will work towards protecting that child’s physical safety, and may contact organization that help families work through sensitive matters constructively.”
The district did not explain how exactly it would differentiate between an unsafe environment and parents who simply reject gender ideology.
However, a district spokesperson stood by the letter, claiming “we fully intend to comply” and its concern is to “connect [students] with resources for their safety.”