State Superintendent Ryan Walters has now formally proposed new rules for what materials could be considered obscene in public schools and new parental rights on sexual matters, including information about “material changes” in a child’s identity.
Public comments about the proposals can be made in writing through March 17 or in person at public hearings set for that same date.
Last week, Walters vowed to seek new administrative rules that would allow the Oklahoma State Board of Education to penalize schools with downgrades to their state accreditation for making available to students books or other materials he described as “pornographic” or “sexualized.”
Those proposed rules, as well as new ones outlining parental rights on sexual matters have now been published on the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website for public review.
People are also reading…
If the proposed new rules are approved by the State Board of Education, they would then be submitted to the Oklahoma Legislature for review during the 2023 legislative session, according to the website.
It also notes that administrative rule changes could also be approved by the governor.
In addition to pushing for taxpayer-funded private school and home school choices, Walters ran for office in 2022 on a platform of national culture-war issues such as school restroom access for transgender youths, banning certain school library books and ridding schools of other forms of what he calls “liberal indoctrination.”
He was sworn in last month.
Walters’ proposed new rules on parental rights would require schools to allow parents to inspect sexual education classroom materials and to have schools honor their written objections “in whole or in part” to sex ed “or any other instruction questioning beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion” without excluding students from the parts of instruction not objected to by the parent.
Those rules also would forbid any school employee from encouraging or coercing a minor child “to withhold information” from the child’s parents and require schools to disclose to parents “any information known to the school district or its employees regarding material changes reasonably expected to be important to parents regarding their child’s health, social, or psychological development, including Identity information.”
It adds: “Such disclosures shall occur within 30 days of learning the information and may include referrals … for appropriate counseling services that the Parent(s) or guardian(s) may use at their discretion.”
Walters’ proposed new rules on school library materials define “pornographic materials” in near-identical fashion to the state’s legal definition of “obscene materials.”
Those proposed rules state that within 60 days of their effective date, and annually every Oct. 1, each school district and Career Technology school be required to submit to the state a complete list of all books and other materials available in their school libraries and have a written policy for reviewing the “educational suitability and age-appropriate nature” of school library materials and for complaints regarding school library materials.
Both sets of newly proposed rules come with the following consequence: “If the state Board of Education makes a finding of willful noncompliance with any requirement of this section, the state Board of Education shall alter the accreditation status of the school district at issue,” the proposal states.
There are five public school accreditation statuses:
Accredited with no deficiencies
Accredited with deficiencies
Accredited with probation
Downgrading a school’s state accreditation to probation status is essentially the state Board of Education’s final warning before a district could lose state accreditation and be forced to close.