First Amendment-based wrongful termination sued filed against OSDE

Natalie Bailey 

Contributing Writer

Ryan Walters is the State Superintendent of Education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. (Provided/AP)

A former Oklahoma State Department of Education employee filed suit against the department, claiming she was wrongfully terminated and her First Amendment rights were violated when she was fired after the media filmed her speaking at an Edmond Public Schools board meeting. 

Janessa Bointy, the plaintiff, used to be employed by SDE as a school counselor specialist from December 2020 to March 2023. The petition filed on Sept. 1 said that Bointy was appointed to work with the Ada, Atoka, and Checotah school districts. Bointy worked with a specific program known as “Project AWARE East,” which helps provide students with mental health services and support, according to the Oklahoma Mental Health & Substance Abuse website. 

Bointy has four children of her own who attend Edmond Public Schools. Bointy has not worked with or within the Edmond Public Schools district. In March, Bointy attended an Edmond Public Schools board meeting after an Edmond student’s suicide attempt. Bointy voiced her opinion on the importance of mental health resources for students within the district. 

A local news crew filmed Bointy speaking and then later aired the footage, crediting Bointy as a “concerned parent.” In the petition, Bointy claims she was not aware of the media filming her, nor did she interview with the news crew. 

Bointy was fired from the OSDE three days later for “improper use of leave, violation of OSDE’s media policy, and a breach of the confidentiality agreement.” 

Within the petition, Bointy also names State Superintendent Ryan Walters for actions he took against Bointy in the time during her termination. The petition also goes on to say Bointy was terminated for things she said at the Edmond Public Schools board meeting, highlighting specific things she made reference to. 

Bointy has claimed in the petition that her termination not only violated her First Amendment rights, but also caused emotional and financial distress. Damages within the petition exceed more than $10,000.

The petition also states that State Supt. Ryan Walters’ actions against the plaintiff were “willful, malicious or in reckless disregard for [Bointy]’s constitutionally protected rights.” 

SDE declined to comment, stating that they do not comment on possible pending litigation and that they do not discuss personnel matters. 

A representative of the State of Oklahoma’s Attorney General’s office said that the office is currently unaware of the details of this petition at this time and are currently not involved in any pending litigation within this case.

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