OK AG Pruitt writes letter opposing bathroom law

Posted at 12:35 PM, May 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-13 17:27:44-04

Several state officials have been responding to the Obama administration's directive that public schools allow transgender students to use restrooms according to their gender identity.

Attorney General of Oklahoma Scott Pruitt wrote a letter outlining his opposition to the directive closing it off with the statement that the directive is enforced on schools in Oklahoma, he plans to "vigorously defend the State's interests." The letter was sent the Department of Education and Department of Justice Friday afternoon, says Pruitt.


"I believe this is an outrageous overreach by the federal government," said Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister in a statement released on Friday. "It nearly defies belief that the Obama Administration now wants to direct how Oklahoma schools and districts operate our bathrooms."

Hofmeister said she finds it disturbing that the joint directive from the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education carries an implicit threat of loss of federal funds.

"In the midst of a historic funding crisis for public education," she said, "schools should not be burdened with this sort of overreach yet again."

Also responding to the federal announcement, U.S. Senator James Lankford said it was another example of how the Obama administration continues to "create law out of thin air."

"The proposal in today's guidance is so significant and groundbreaking, it should only be considered by legislation, preferably at the local level," said Lankford in a written statement.

"Even though the Department will say that guidance does not have the force of law, every school district in the country will be terrified of going against a federal agenda. This is threatening and intimidating and has no place in our government,” Lankford said. “This proposal has many unintended consequences for safety and gender fairness, which are completely being ignored in this conversation."

Lankford said no student should feel unwelcome at school. "[B]ut we cannot ignore the fact that this policy will make the majority of American families unwelcome in their own school. The people of Oklahoma are welcoming to all, but they deserve the right to make their own choices on how to honor and protect each child."

Congressman Tom Cole said, “It is absolutely inappropriate for the nation’s highest elected official to use threats in order to force his own views of morality and normalcy on states and localities, even if those views aren’t shared by the majority of the people living there...States are already confronting the issue of gender identity effectively in the ways that best fit the lifestyle, beliefs and culture of each state. To impose guidance on morality and withhold funds in cases of noncompliance is shameful.”

Congressman Jim Bridenstine stated, “We must stand against President Obama’s aggressive attempts to fundamentally transform America.  Congress must use the ‘power of the purse’ to combat this executive overreach.  Parents and schools should assert their rights to govern themselves and not submit to Obama’s lawless federal bullying.”

2 Works for You reached out to several school districts in the area. Tulsa Public Schools said in a written statement, "It is our commitment at Tulsa Public Schools that every student in our district is safe and respected, and that is reflected in our policies and guidelines."

Jenks Public Schools wrote, " is our priority to meet the needs of all students. Regarding transgender students and the use of restroom facilities, it is our practice to evaluate the needs of those students on a case-by-case basis and accommodate those students in a manner which is respectful not only to the transgender students but to all students enrolled at Jenks Public Schools."

Sand Springs Public Schools' preliminary response before reading the joint letter was: "Sand Springs has always been attentive to unique needs of students."

Broken Arrow Public Schools sent a statement saying, "It is important to understand that the information provided by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education is a letter of guidance, not the law. And, with the current law so unclear, it is unfair that this directive has been issued with an implied threat of withholding federal funds for noncompliance during a time of financial crisis for Oklahoma public schools. The goal of Broken Arrow Public Schools is to protect the rights of all students while providing equal access to a public education in a safe learning environment. While our district does not have a specific policy pertaining to the use of restrooms or locker rooms by transgender students, we do have a non-discrimination policy in place which states: “There will be no discrimination in the District because of race, color, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender expression or identity, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, age, or genetic information in its programs, services, activities and employment. The law surrounding transgender issues is ever changing and our district will take the necessary steps to comply with federal and state law. At this time, it is our practice to provide gender neutral restrooms and changing areas for those students who have identified themselves as transgender or gender non-conforming. This practice is consistent with our non-discrimination policy and is permissible based on current legal precedent. We are evaluating the information provided today and will continue to monitor the situation with guidance from our legal counsel to ensure we remain in." 

Stay with KJRH for more response from public officials.

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