OKLAHOMA CITY — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is requesting a formal binding opinion from state Attorney General John O'Connor in connection to the restroom policy at Stillwater Public Schools.
Stillwater's school board has asked for clear legal guidance from the state on whether the school district may continue allowing transgender students to use a school restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
On April 18, the Stillwater Board of Education approved a resolution requesting the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) and State Board of Education to take up emergency rules on the district's restroom policy.
Hofmeister said the proper course of action is to now get a binding opinion from O’Connor since Stillwater’s request doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency.
Stillwater Public Schools indicate there have been no reports of incidents in the six years that the policy has been in existence.
State Secretary of Education Ryan Walters sent two letters in early April about this issue. One was sent to Stillwater's school board urging them to end the policy and another was sent to O'Connor asking him to stop the policy from continuing.
At the time, O'Connor responded to Walters' letters by saying there is currently no legal precedent that permits people to be able to choose the restrooms based on their gender identity and vice versa.
There are other considerations that are leading to O'Connor's opinion, Hofmeister says. She notes issues such as local control "is a guiding principle in Oklahoma law" and helps school districts across the state make decisions.
While there is no legal precedent that exists in Oklahoma at the moment, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed Title IX protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in June 2021.
Hofmeister asks that O'Connor issue a formal written opinion to clarify whether districts may set their own policies for restroom use.
“The answers to these questions will not only provide the crystal-clear guidance sought and will come in the form of a binding opinion on those in Oklahoma who have historically implemented and enforced Title IX and related laws on these matters,” wrote Hofmeister. “Your attention and expeditious review of these matters are sincerely appreciated.”
The opinion request is available here.
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