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Oklahoma lawmaker compares librarians to cockroaches, district disputes incident she outlines

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An Oklahoma lawmaker accused Stillwater Public Schools librarians of withholding a student’s library checkout history from their parents.

But the school district says it would “release those records to parents/guardians upon request as appropriate.”

“District admins have not received any comments or complaints about any alleged denial of access to a students library records, prior to hearing about this clip,” Stillwater spokesman Barry Fuxa wrote in an email.

The accusation came up during an exchange between Newcastle Republican Sherrie Conley and Norman Democrat Merleyn Bell. Bell was asking Conley about her HB 4014, which would require school libraries to turn over records of what minors have checked out to their parents upon request.

Their exchange has been lightly edited to remove procedural language:

Bell: I'm just curious because I heard you mentioned before that this isn't an issue in our public libraries or publicly funded libraries, except for perhaps in a school or in a particular school district. I'm wondering if you can tell the body what school district that is?

Conley: Thank you for the question. Stillwater.

Bell: And how many school districts do we have total in the state?

Conley: 521, maybe? I don't know. It seems like the number changes.

Bell: So we're talking about something that may have happened to one or a small group of parents in terms of the denial that you're talking about in one out of 500-plus school districts across the state.

Conley: What I would say about that is that, you know, you may only see one cockroach in your kitchen, but doesn't mean there's only one there.

That snippet drew social media scorn for Conley.

As for what will happen next in Stillwater, Fuxa wrote that there could have been a miscommunication among staff.

“[A]dministrators will certainly inquire with our site principals and library media specialists to investigate once they return from spring break and correct any misconceptions any employees may have, if an error did occur on an employee's part, but I certainly wouldn't consider it an ‘issue’ in the district,” he wrote.

Robby Korth
Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.