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Tulsa school board president ‘begs’ state superintendent to tone down rhetoric

Tulsa School Board President Stacey Woolley speaks at a state board meeting on May 25, 2023
Oklahoma State Department of Education
Tulsa School Board President Stacey Woolley speaks at a state board meeting on May 25, 2023

Saying she was attending only as a mother, Tulsa School Board President Stacey Woolley took to the podium at Thursday’s state board of education meeting to plead with Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Woolley said Walters’ “vitriolic, dishonest, and dangerous” rhetoric is putting students at risk in an age of mass shootings.

“This is genuinely what scares me for our kids. In a country where mass shootings have become almost routine, in a state with adult gun ownership well over 50% and some of the highest adverse childhood event metrics, your words just might be the spark that lights a fire none of us either want to or deserve to experience,” said Woolley.

Walters, who routinely decries “woke indoctrination” in schools, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Woolley’s remarks.

Woolley was one of several speakers at the meeting who expressed concern about the direction of the state department of education. Other commenters included Erika Wright, founder of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, and Moore High School teacher Shaista Fenwick.

At the same meeting, Walters decried teachers unions. He played a videoas part of what he called a “public awareness campaign” aimed at informing people about union views. The video featured clips of Walters on Fox News mixed with footage of officials speaking at a National Education Association conference.

During a recent legislative hearing, Walters also compared teachers unions to "terrorist organizations."

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.