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NPS Board members voice support for Edmond Public Schools

In World
April 24, 2024

Apr. 23—Three members of the Norman Public Schools Board of Education voiced their support for Edmond Public Schools in its lawsuit against State Superintendent Ryan Walters.

The lawsuit comes after the Oklahoma State Department of Education ordered the district to move “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls off the shelves of high school libraries.

According to multiple previous reports, the agency’s Library Media Review Committee flagged both books for being “pornographic” and having contained “sexualized content.”

Alex Ruggiers, NPS Board of Education Office 2, joined Edmond Superintendent Angela Grunewald who previously said these books do not contain pornography; rather, they are age appropriate for high schoolers and that Walter’s move to remove them is an attempt to undermine the district’s authority.

“Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about these blatant attacks on school districts across the state in regards to providing student access to a wide range of literature, featuring diverse and yet sometimes challenging or upsetting experiences,” Ruggiers said. “As a former English teacher, I truly believe that freedom to read is one of our most fundamental rights.”

Ruggiers, who holds a Master of Education, joined the staff at Norman High School as an English teacher in 2016.

He said it is essential for local administrators to decide what kind of material is appropriate for their students.

“The line between what is appropriate literature to provide our students and what is not is different from community to community, which is why local leaders, administrators and teachers are the best place to make those decisions about curriculum and educational materials that reflect the values and the needs of their communities,” Ruggiers said.

On Jan. 19, Walters’ staff gave Edmond Public Schools 14 days to take the books off its schools’ shelves, according to Edmond’s legal filing, otherwise, the district would be at risk of losing its accreditation.

“State Superintendent Ryan Walters used his favorite tool of fear and control and threatening the accreditation of Edmond Public Schools if they did not remove ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls and ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini from their shelves, which resulted in a lawsuit against him by Edmond Public Schools in attempt to regain local control,” Ruggiers said. “I am expressing tonight my wholehearted and unequivocal support for Edmond Public Schools and their lawsuit against Ryan Walters.”

Newly sworn-in member of the NPS Board, Office 4 Dawn Brockman, also supported her support for Edmond.

“I do want to join in support of Edmond Public Schools and their lawsuit in the ridiculous overreach of our state superintendent,” Brockman said.

Annette Price, Office 3 NPS Board member, said that all districts should have the right to apply their own community standards to decide books and curricula.

“I trust our educators and our certified librarians and their practiced expertise in selecting challenging reading material, and ones that will help our students grow,” Price said. “I appreciate the support of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and Oklahoma State School Board Association to help emphasize the importance of local control so that we can make these decisions right here in Norman and decide what’s right for our Norman kids.”

Ruggiers urged constituents to contact their legislators and the Department of Education to voice their concern for a stronger public educational system, in support of Edmond Public Schools’ right to defend their autonomy.

“This craven attempt to interfere with the local decision making process is a direct assault on the principles of local control and democratic governance,” Ruggiers said. “Edmond Public Schools, like all local educational institutions, including this one, should have the right to determine their curriculum and educational materials without undue interference from a power hungry bully who has overstepped his authority.”

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