Walters calls for two-gender rule for public school students

Madison Simon

Contributing Writer

Ryan Walters stated that Oklahoma schools need more “discipline” but did not provide specifics, saying that those would come later. (ETHAN BROWN/THE VISTA)

In the monthly State Board of Education meeting held on Oct. 26 at the Oliver Hodge Building, State Superintendent Ryan Walters and other members of the board addressed agenda issues such as discipline reform and gender identification in schools.

Walters announced plans for a comprehensive discipline reform across Oklahoma. 

“This is going to be a roadmap for other states to be able to follow,” Walters said. “This is what putting back discipline in the classroom, ensuring that we’re not only going to have high expectation on academics, we’re also going to have high expectations on classroom behavior.”

In a detailed report, Walters praised Oklahoma public schools like Woodward for their early introduction of Career Tech programs and commended Guymon Public Schools for their optimal use of resources. He emphasized the importance of local job opportunities that do not require college degrees, while also drawing attention to the need for discipline for overall student success.

Walters also responded to complaints about an email from Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Uwe Gordon. The e-mail sent by the Stillwater superintendent was in regards to the last board meeting which implemented an emergency rule that told schools they could not alter gender-designations on school records. Although the email was in line with the board’s ruling, it included resources and counseling offices for students.

“The fact that they were sent out an email that would slam parents, undermine parents, and attempt to circumvent these rules is a great measure of concern,” said Walters. “I will always stand with parents. I will not allow any rogue administrator to undermine these rules.”

A public comment section was another focal point of the meeting. Peggy Howell emphasized the anticipation of over 700,000 students & parents regarding board actions and pointed to the availability of $5 billion for resource allocation in public schools.

Other concerns raised included issues of molestation at Noble Public Schools, unrealistic proficiency expectations in state tests, and advocacy for recognizing gender changes in school records. Derek Colson, along with others, called for respect and equality for all students regardless of their background.

A notable presentation was delivered by Dr. Ebony Johnson, the Interim Superintendent for Tulsa Public Schools. She emphasized the central mission of improving student outcomes and shed light on Tulsa Public School’s three main areas of focus: training teachers on the science of reading, corrective action plans for underperforming schools, and new internal controls implementation. Walters questioned the means to enhance reading proficiency among students, with Dr. Johnson emphasizing the significance of active family involvement.

Requests from various public schools to change gender designation in school records were denied. 

“We have two genders; those are the genders that are set,” Walters said.

 This sentiment was countered by grandparent Candice Hoyt, who urged the board to focus on education rather than ideological debates.

Walters expressed concerns over reactions to the situation in Israel from higher education institutions. He emphasized that K-12 teachings should communicate that Israel has the right to exist and that any attacks against it originate from terrorist organizations like Hamas.

“We believe it’s essential to be clear on this issue. Our young people don’t need to be confused on this, it should be crystal clear where the country stands and where basic human emotion, stability stands.” said Walters. 

Ensuring that the curriculum is free from anti-Israel or antisemitic sentiments is a priority for Walters.

The meeting, which saw the swearing-in of newly appointed board member  Zachary Archer by Walters, discussed the change of the upcoming meeting date from November 19 to November 30. This new schedule also sets the stage for discussions on regular meeting dates for the 2024 State Board of Education.

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