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TPS board president to Hofmeister: Reconsider HB 1755 violation vote

Posted at 1:23 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 18:20:25-04

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Public Schools's board president sent a letter to the Oklahoma State Board of Education asking them to reconsider the decision regarding demoting the school district due to violating House Bill 1775.

TPS Board of Education President Stacey Woolley sent the letter to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister asking to revisit the vote and asking for a reversal of the decision.

In late July, the State BOE voted for a more severe penalty than recommended to TPS. The vote demoted the district to have an "accreditation with warning," meaning a school site fails to meet one or more of the standards which detracts from the quality of the school’s educational program.

The demotion came after there was speculation and debates about whether TPS violated HB1775, a law that prohibits particular subjects or teachings of race and sex in Oklahoma schools.

Wooley writes that implicit bias was a motivating factor in the discussion of the demotion, but is "not what the bill or ... rules claim to prohibit." She also says the training that sparked the controversy happened in August 2021, a month before emergency rules that expanded HB1775 was in effect.

The letter claims that not all of the evidence from the training was presented which explains how the State BOE ended up voting that TPS violated state law.

Wooley says if Hofmeister was presented with all of the evidence, she believes there "there would be a reversal of the recommendation" of demotion against the school district.

You can read Wooley's full letter below:

Hello and good afternoon.

I have served as the President of the Board of Education of Tulsa Public Schools for the past 2 years and have had the pleasure of meeting you once, in passing. It has taken me a couple of days to get over the initial shock and begin processing the vote which occurred on July 28th regarding Tulsa Public Schools’ alleged violation of HB 1775. I honestly believed that, when presented with all the evidence, there would be a reversal of the recommendation that it be recognized as a violation. I am writing to ask that you revisit this vote and determine there was no infraction. Please allow me to clarify why I believe this reversal to be a more appropriate path than what occurred last week.

First, implicit bias, which appears to be the issue at hand, is not about a person’s bias that is informed or inherent in their race, sex, or other inherited trait. It is solely about one’s lived experiences and how those experiences shape their view of the world. It is how we generalize behaviors and stereotypes that we experience in our own environment. This is not what the bill or your resultant rules claim to prohibit.

Second, and most important from my perspective, is that the incident reportedly occurred prior to the emergency rules even having been voted on by your board. (Based on what I have found, the professional training occurred in August 2021 and the passage of the emergency rules did not occur until September that same year.) I’m certain that applying the law retroactively or ex post facto is not legal. Additionally, it does not seem that the evidence was actually presented to you (which might explain how the vote was achieved) but that the teacher’s statement of the event and the feelings it caused the said teacher was enough to satisfy a breach of the law.

Finally, I want to thank you for your time and consideration of this request. As a lifelong public school advocate, there are few things I am willing to donate my time to like I am for public education. I have 5 children of my own, have fostered several more, and am particularly passionate about literacy as integral to lifelong opportunity. I serve on the Board of Tulsa Public Schools to fight for liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity, and diversity. Values that almost all Americans proclaim to believe in - and values I’m certain we share. I tell you this because I think it is important that we acknowledge and appreciate all the ways in which we are much more alike than different if we are to find success for all the students we serve.

Thank you again for your time and I appreciate your work on behalf of the students and families of Oklahoma.

Stacey R. Woolley

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