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Tulsa elementary school sees 2nd day of threats linked to posts from state leadership

Ellen Ochoa Elementary located at 12000 E. 31st St.
Union Public Schools
Ellen Ochoa Elementary located at 12000 E. 31st St.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 12:24 a.m.

Ellen Ochoa Elementary in the Union Public Schools district has received an all clear after a second day of bomb threats.

On Tuesday, Ellen Ochoa received a baseless bomb threat via email around 6 a.m. postponing the start of school. On Wednesday morning around 8:45 a.m., multiple news outlets received an email saying bombs would be placed at Ellen Ochoa and the home of its librarian, Kirby Mackenzie.

“You will stop pushing this woke ideology or we will bomb every school in the union district,” reads the threat distributed to media from a sender identified as Yesyy at y6982316@gmail.com.

Chris Payne, spokesperson for the district, said Ellen Ochoa students sheltered in place as police and staff investigated the second baseless threat.

“Of course it’s very disruptive,” said Payne. “It makes it hard to conduct class when people are worried about their safety.”

Payne said the emails are related to a TikTok videoposted over the weekend by librarian Kirby Mackenzie. In the video, Mackenzie holds books while singing along to a Ludacris song. Text on the video reads, “POV: teachers in your state are dropping like flies but you are still just not quite finished pushing your woke agenda at public schools.”

Mackenzie’s video was posted on X — formerly known as Twitter — by Libs of TikTok, an account with more than 2 million followers that shares with derogatory comments content from LGBTQ and left-leaning social media users.

“This is an elementary school librarian in Oklahoma,” the Monday post from Libs of TikTok reads.

Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters shared the Libs of TikTok post on Tuesday, saying that “woke ideology is real” and he is here to “stop it.” Walters has routinely embraced "culture war" talking points.

Payne said the video is being taken out of context, pointing to Mackenzie’s caption not shared by Walters or Libs of TikTok that reads, “My radical liberal agenda is teaching kids to love books and be kind. hbu??”

“She was being ironic and of course they’re treating that like, ‘See, she does have a woke agenda.’ But the irony is, for our librarians, it is about teaching kids to love books and be kind,” said Payne.

While Payne didn't name Walters specifically, he criticized polarizing social media posts from “elected officials” that end up causing threats like the ones at Ochoa.

“It just really creates for chaos and it really needs to stop. It’s very irresponsible. We’re trying to conduct school. If you really care about educating students, then quit doing things that are divisive or hateful. That’s kind of where we’re at. We just want to safely hold school.”

The disruption at Ellen Ochoa comes a day before the Oklahoma Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the accreditation of Tulsa Public Schools. An accreditation loss would strip the district of state funding. On Tuesday evening, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist, who's had an adversarial relationship with Walters, said she was stepping down to hopefully stop a state takeover of TPS.

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.