Two graphic novels reportedly on library shelves at Tulsa schools were the subject of a series of tweets by Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters on Wednesday accusing the district of “liberal indoctrination.”
Walters tweeted screenshots — taken from the conservative social media account “Libs of TikTok“ — of a search on Follett Destiny — a library resource manager — of Memorial High School’s library catalog for the books “Gender Queer” and “Flamer.” The screenshot shows that “Gender Queer” was not available at Memorial but reportedly was available at Nathan Hale High School and Booker T. Washington High School; the search results for “Flamer” shows “1 of 1 available.”
In his tweet, which also included photos of the graphic novels, Walters said: “This is disgusting. It must end! No more induction of our kids!”
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The Tulsa World searched Follett Destiny Discover’s website and did not find either book listed as available at Booker T. Washington or Memorial high schools. However, “Gender Queer” was available at Nathan Hale High School.
Several hours after his original post, Walters posted a video on Twitter accusing Tulsa Public Schools and Superintendent Deborah Gist of having a “woke” and “leftist” agenda and said he posted the photos of the novels on Facebook only for them to be removed.
“It’s really a sad day when woke up Facebook has higher standards than Deborah Gist at Tulsa Public Schools,” Walters said. “It is unbelievable that they are allowing this type of inappropriate sexual material in their library. I’m not going to stand for it.
“We’ve got inappropriate sexual material being public targeted to kids at Tulsa Schools, and this liberal indoctrination has to stop.”
Following Walters’ tweets, Tulsa Public Schools released a statement saying the school system has nearly a million books on its library shelves that were bought based on decisions “using national reviews as well as suggestions from teachers and students.”
The statement says the district has a process for reviewing books when concerns are raised that includes a committee made up of students, parents, teachers and librarians who review the book.
“Right now, we are focused on opening schools during a time of a teacher shortage crisis never before seen in Oklahoma,” the statement says. “It is deeply disappointing that Governor Stitt and Ryan Walters continue to dig into every opportunity they can find to attack Tulsa Public Schools rather than to address the crisis right in front of us.
“Our superintendent’s response to all of this is: Knock it off. We need to focus on serving Tulsa kids.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister issued a statement calling on TPS to remove the books, calling them “inappropriate” and “pornography that does not belong in any public school library.”
Her office said it has reached out to TPS and is calling for the books to be removed “immediately.”
“Parents have the right to review what books are available in their children’s schools, and to direct what their children have access to, so they can have confidence their children are in a safe learning environment,” Hofmeister’s statement says.
A School Library Journal editorial review says “Flamer” is appropriate for grades 8 and up and describes it as the “story of a teen who must decide if he will force himself into the mold of what he thinks a ‘normal’ boy is, or if he can allow himself to live life on his own terms.”
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