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Walters draws ire, support during Oklahoma state school board meeting

Ryan Walters is seen on November 2022. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Ryan Walters is seen on November 2022. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
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Emotions ran high at a packed Oklahoma State Department of Education board meeting Thursday as parents, teachers, and individuals from across the state gathered to voice their disappointment or support for Oklahoma's embattled state superintendent, Ryan Walters.

The meeting came in the wake of accusations made by Republican Representative Mark McBride, who claimed that the Department of Education had not filed for all necessary federal grants to keep schools running smoothly.

During the meeting, multiple people expressed their opinions on Walters' rhetoric and management. Concerned parents voiced their fears that his words could incite harm.

Stacey Woolley, a Tulsa Public Schools parent, expressed her concerns.

"In a state with adult gun ownership over 50% and some of the highest adverse child event metrics, your words might just be the spark that lights a fire that none of us want to experience. As a dad, surely you can understand how dangerous calling teachers terrorists is," Woolley said.

Kit Fairchild, a fifth-generation Oklahoma businessman, criticized Walters' use of divisive language.

"When it comes to saying things, like calling people socialist and Marxist, just to throw out some boogeyman words, to get people anxious, to get people nervous and scared, that's incredulous. I love when they call me a socialist because here I am, I'm a business guy. It all comes from income-generating assets. I don't get a stipend, which is a word you should look up because if you do, you'd find that Ryan Walters is way more of a socialist than I ever will be," Fairchild said.

Supporters of Walters expressed concerns about socialism creeping into Oklahoma classrooms.

Joy Howell, a supporter of Walters, believed there was a plan to overthrow the U.S. government.

"What we're seeing in our schools, what we're seeing on every level in our nation, is the longstanding plan, patiently and methodically pursued, by those with the intent of overthrowing the U.S. government. It starts at the very basic level, and it's to replace that with a communist dictatorship," said Howell.

Others, like Bob Linn from the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, appreciated Walters' efforts to maintain what they considered to be appropriate topics in public schools.

"The vast majority of Oklahomans do not want to send their son to school and have their teacher suggest they might be a girl. The vast majority of Oklahomans don't want to send their daughter to school and have a teacher or anyone else suggest they may be a boy. These are topics inappropriate in our public schools. So, I appreciate the work you're doing to keep that from happening," Linn said.

After numerous public comments, Walters had the opportunity to respond to the claims made by McBride.

Walters vehemently denied the accusations, calling McBride a liar and accusing teachers' unions and the media of undermining his administration. Walters presented a letter from a U.S. Department of Education employee, which stated that the state was receiving all necessary formula grants but was uncertain about discretionary grants, emphasizing that it was up to the state to decide whether to apply for them or not. Walters also criticized journalists, likening them to enemies of Oklahoma parents and students for their reporting on the issue.

"I will not be deterred. I will not be distracted by the lies of the teachers' union, woke sellout legislators, and the media. Will not happen," asserted Walters.

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He also recently announced the launch of a public awareness campaign to present his version of the truth, a video that has drawn substantial controversy on its own.


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