TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — Three weeks ago Kathy McDonald says she signed up to speak to the Tulsa Public Schools Board about sex education to advocate for an opt-in policy rather than the current opt-out policy, to ensure parents are aware of the curriculum.
"There are those that have opted out if they know to opt-out," she said.
But she never got to make those comments.
"They said I couldn’t speak, and I said, 'Why can I not speak?' I signed up three weeks ago, you have to do this seven days in advance, and they said, 'Because the school district's attorney hasn’t approved you to speak,'" she said.
Right there on the citizens' comments form under "Topic" it reads: "Subject to approval by School District Attorney."
A section that she hadn't initially filled out because she says she was told she didn't need to and by the time TPS did want to more info it was apparently too late for their attorney to review.
This brings us to the real core of this story.
"I think a lot of people would be shocked to learn that before you’re allowed to speak it has to be approved by, 'Lawyers. Lawyers have to approve it. And I’m thinking, do I get a lawyer too? Do I get a lawyer to argue my case that I have a constitutional right to petition my government?' But apparently, apparently, I don’t," said retired TPS teacher Michael Phillips.
He signed up back in August to speak, and he was questioned about what he wanted to talk about.
"I want to talk about E'lena Ashley. 'Well now what do you want to say about E’lena Ashley?' was the response to that," he said.
School board member E'lena Ashley by the way...
"It sounds like our voices can be easily censored with this," she said.
Ashley isn't exactly thrilled with the current lawyer- review-citizen-comment-request-forms policy.
"I really think that we should be more accessible as a board," she said.
On the instruction sheet attached to the comment form it states, "The topic language submitted by the citizen will be reviewed and approved or disapproved by the attorney for the school district."
"Anytime a school has an attorney who can tell us, who, frankly pay their salary, that we cannot speak at a school board meeting, something needs to be done," said McDonald.
"When you were filling this out, did it go through your head like, 'Wait a minute, who are they to try and know exactly what I’m going to say?'" asked NewsChannel 8.
"You think? You think that was going through my head? Yes, that’s exactly what was going through my head," said Phillips.
For Phillips the experience was so off-putting he ended up not speaking at all.
"I was very discouraged, I decided not to pursue it," he said.
McDonald did end up speaking Monday night but it was on another agenda item.
Even so, one comment she made pretty much covered all the bases.
"I think we the people of Tulsa deserve better," she said.