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Edmond, OK—Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters took to his car this week to film a new video accusing Edmond Public Schools of allegedly allowing pornographic material in their libraries and classrooms. 

The material he’s referring to are two books, The Glass Castle and The Kite Runner. The former is a memoir from Jeanette Walls as she retells the story of her chaotic upbringing. Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini wrote the latter. Neither story is inherently explicit, but they do discuss topics like sexual abuse and child sex trafficking. 

Now Edmond Schools is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter. They are petitioning the court to determine whether the Oklahoma Board of Education or local school boards control book approval. 

They filed the petition on Tuesday, two days before the scheduled OSDE meeting. The state school board notified EPS that if they do not remove the books from the curriculum their accreditation is in danger.

Edmond Superintendent Dr. Angela Grunewald held a press conference where she stated that OSDE has asked them to appear before the board to defend their decision to keep the books. “Unfortunately, the State Department of Education’s action has forced us to seek judicial intervention,” Grunewald stated. 

At the meeting, Superintendent Walters discussed the conflict between the state and Edmond Public Schools. “Edmond is trying to make it about these two books but I want to be clear that is not the issue,” Walters stated at Thursday’s meeting. “That district decided to sue us on the entirety of our rules that ban pornographic material and sexually explicit material to minors,” he continued. 

Edmond Garners Support from Other Districts

Following Tuesday’s call for judicial intervention, several school districts have spoken out to voice their backing of EPS. 

Superintendent Dr. Jason Perez of Deer Creek Public Schools, which is also located in Edmond, released a statement in solidarity with EPS.

“Every public school district in our state has a duly elected board of education, chosen by the patrons of their respective communities, to represent the interests and values of those they serve,” the statement says. “When districts are not given the opportunity to intervene at the local level, it undermines these policies as well as the authority of the governing body elected by its community.”

Dr. Rick Cobb who is the Superintendent of Mid-Del Schools, a district that encompasses the schools in Midwest City and Del City, released a statement as well. 

“Every public school district interstate has an elected Board of Education that is chosen by the voters and their communities. They serve conscientiously to represent the interests and values of their patrons. This representation is foundational to our education system and is a cornerstone of our society…The educators who spend their days with our students deserve our vocal support. I applaud Edmond, Public schools and encourage other educators and public education supporters to be vocal with their support.”

Dr. Rick Cobb, Mid-Del Schools

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History of Threatening Accreditation

Edmond Public Schools isn’t the first district to face threats from the current OSDE administration. 

Tulsa Public Schools is still reeling from a hit to the district’s accreditation in 2022. Walters downgraded the district due to allegations of violating House Bill 1775 which limits lessons on race, history and gender. Continued threats to the district by Walters influenced former Superintendent of TPS Deborah Gist to resign.

The OSDE also gave Mustang Public Schools a downgraded accreditation in 2022. Like Tulsa, this was a direct result of the passage of HB 1775.  

Passed by Governor Stitt in 2021, HB 1775 has caused several issues for Oklahoma teachers and schools. A teacher in Norman had her license threatened after she shared a library link that contained books banned in Oklahoma. State officials haven’t formally revoked her teaching license because they failed to prove her action broke the law.

Some teachers even fear assigning the book-turned blockbuster hit, Killers of the Flower Moon. Others avoid teaching about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre because they are concerned about being punished.

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