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As state board debated TPS’ curriculum, accreditation, Union Public Schools faced more bomb threats

Ellen Ochoa Elementary
Union Public Schools
Ellen Ochoa Elementary

For three consecutive days, Union Public Schools has faced bomb threats linked to posts from state leadership.

The latest threat sent Thursday to multiple media outlets came from an account labeled as God Sent with the address sentg0010@gmail.com. The email listed four addresses within the district as having been planted with bombs.

Two addresses belong to Ellen Ochoa Elementary and its librarian. Two are an enrollment center and an education service center.

Union Deputy Superintendent Dr. John Federline said Ochoa was swept multiple times by staff and police since the start of the threats, with a search occurring early this morning. He said school continued as usual.

In his many years as an educator, Federline said he has not dealt with such a string of threats.

“Usually they’re one off and we move on. It’s pretty unprecedented.”

The latest threat came during a State Board of Education meeting addressing Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation. TPS is Union’s neighbor. State Superintendent Ryan Walters has threatened to pull TPS’ accreditation.

Walters’ complaints include poor academic performance, financial mismanagement, and “wokeness.”

During the meeting that ultimately resulted in TPS being accredited with deficiencies, Walters dialed back his use of the word “woke,” though he did propose potential restrictions on a Chinese language program run through Confucius Classrooms at Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School.

“This is pure propaganda meant to undermine our American institutions,” said Walters.

Walters’ proposal that schools must disclose “direct and indirect” funding from foreign governments was approved by the board, as was a proposal that schools must report their pronoun policies to the state for scrutiny.

Walters’ inclination for “culture war” talking points has been linked to the ongoing bomb threats. Though Union spokesman Chris Payne didn’t name Walters, he said “elected officials”who use “hateful” rhetoric are causing chaos.

Around the time of the initial threat on Tuesday, Walters shared a post from Libs of TikTok, an account with more than 2 million followers on X dedicated to sharing and deriding content from left-leaning social media users. The post criticized Ellen Ochoa’s librarian, Kirby Mackenzie, after she created a satirical video of herself saying she was pursuing the woke agenda of teaching kids to love books.

“Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it,” wrote Walters in his post sharing Mackenzie's video.

Payne said Mackenzie’s video was ironic and taken out of context.

Federline said the police are investigating the bomb threats and he hopes they end soon so the district can “return to the business of school.”

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.