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Multiple victims in shooting at Tulsa hospital; Gunman ‘Down,’ police say

Police say a man with a rifle entered a local hospital in Tulsa, Okla., and shot multiple people. The shooter is down.

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Screenshot via NBC News

UPDATED from The Associated Press:

A man who blamed his surgeon for ongoing pain after a recent back surgery bought an AR-style rifle hours before opening fire at a Tulsa medical office, killing the surgeon and three other people before fatally shooting himself, police said Thursday.

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin says the gunman had recently undergone back surgery and had called a clinic repeatedly complaining of pain. Franklin says the doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Preston Phillips, was killed Wednesday, along with another doctor, a receptionist and a patient.

Original Story:

TULSA, Ok. – Four people were killed Wednesday afternoon after a shooting at a doctor’s office in Tulsa. A fifth person believed to be the suspect, died by suicide after a shooting at a medical complex a Tulsa Police Department spokesperson confirmed to multiple media outlets Wednesday evening.

Officers were called to the Natalie Building, located in the area of 61st Street and Yale Avenue, at St. Francis Hospital regarding a man armed with a rifle.

“This turned into an active shooter situation,” a Tulsa police captain said in a released statement.

“Officers are currently going through every room in the building checking for additional threats. We know there are multiple injuries, and potentially multiple casualties,” the spokesperson said.

KOTV-DT News 6 Tulsa reported that a representative from Governor Kevin Stitt’s office says he has talked with Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum to express his condolences and offer any state resources that may be needed.

The White House notified reporters that President Biden has been briefed on the shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The White House is closely monitoring the situation and has reached out to state and local officials to offer support.

This is a developing story.

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Oklahoma

LGBTQ+ groups call for removal of Okla. education official

Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma

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Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters with anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs Of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik on Feb. 6. (Raichik/selfie on Waters Okla. State Facebook Page)

WASHINGTON – A coalition of more than 350 advocacy groups issued a letter on Wednesday calling for the removal of Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters along with a federal investigation into the “actions and policies” by the Oklahoma Department of Education that have facilitated a “culture where rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQI+ students has been allowed to go unchecked.”

The letter comes as the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict earlier this month, a day after they were allegedly assaulted in a school restroom and after enduring months of bullying, has drawn national attention to, and scrutiny of, the state’s policies targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ Oklahomans, particularly youth.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death is ongoing. LGBTQ+ advocates including Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson have called for independent probes by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.

“Superintendent Ryan Walters is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and hate,” the letter argues. “Just a month ago, he passed an emergency rule to prevent an Oklahoma teen who was fearful of being bullied from changing his gender on school files,” and he also “called for the firing of a principal who performed in drag on weekends, which led to violent threats against the educator.”

Additionally, the letter notes, Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik, creator of the anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok, to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma and having no credentials for the position.” 

Per a press release from GLAAD, “Signers span Oklahoma-specific civil rights groups, churches and faith denominations, legal groups and unions, and more, to national education and youth advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, women’s rights leaders and equality groups in neighboring states.”

Among the national nonprofit organizations are the American Association of School Librarians, the Center for American Progress, GLAAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), GLSEN, HRC, the Interfaith Alliance, It Gets Better, Lambda Legal, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Movement Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Education Association, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG National, the Rainbow Youth Project USA, the Trevor Project and the Transgender Law Center.

The release notes they were joined by public figures who include Kristin Chenoweth, Demi Lovato, Cynthia Nixon, Jonathan Van Ness, Tommy Dorfman, Alok, Peppermint, Emma Roberts, Amy Schneider and K.D. Lang.

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Oklahoma state senator says LGBTQ+ people are “filth”

The Tahlequah Daily Press newspaper reported several audience members clapped, while others appeared shocked

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Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Tom Woods (Screenshot/YouTube)

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Republican state Sen. Tom Woods took part in a public legislative panel forum Friday Feb 23rd during which the panel was asked by a constituent about the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old non-binary Owasso High School student, who had been attacked and beaten in a school bathroom.

The Oklahoma Voice reported that Cathy Cott, a 64-year-old semi-retired resident, asked the lawmakers why the Legislature had such an obsession with the LGBTQ+ citizens of the state, what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children, according to the Tahlequah Daily Press, which first reported the remarks.

When she got no answer, she asked about the bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

“Why does the Legislature have such an obsession with the LGBTQ citizens of Oklahoma and what people do in their personal lives and how they raise their children?” Cott asked.

Woods replied, “We are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma. You know we are a religious state. We are going to fight and keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we’re a Christian state”

The Tahlequah Daily Press also reported several audience members clapped, while others appeared shocked.

Cott said in an interview with Oklahoma Voice that she was not surprised by Woods’ answer.

Cott said she has many family and friends who are LGBTQ+.

“I have dealt with other state representatives and senators and been to lobby day and tried to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community when I can so I am used to it,” she said. “They haven’t said anything like this to me before where they describe citizens of the state as filth, but they let me know they just don’t care.”

She said Woods’ remarks absolutely contribute to the hostile climate in the state for the LGBTQ+ community.

Prior to his election to his seat to represent Oklahoma’s 4th Senate district in 2022, Woods was a farmer and business owner. He ran a dairy farm, feed store, and trucking company. His district runs along the eastern border of Oklahoma from West Fort Smith, Okla. to Grove, and runs into Tahlequah.

Another Republican, state Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, a former teacher, told the audience he’s always seen educators’ jobs as “to educate students, not indoctrinate students.”

In a statement to the Blade, Brandon Wolf, the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign said:

The only “filth” here is this vile statement from a sitting state senator. This is the kind of hate speech that incites deadly violence against our communities. This is what we mean when we say that the flames of dehumanization and hate have been fanned in Oklahoma. Enough is enough. There needs to be accountability for this climate of hate — and the damage being done.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO and president of GLAAD told the Blade:

“Enough is enough. Oklahoma’s Republican leaders are continuing to nurture a climate of anti-LGBTQ animus, modeling disgusting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, questioning our very humanity, attacking marginalized youth and educators who support them, and improperly handling bullying and assaults at school. Leaders with a bully pulpit have the power to inspire empathy and understanding, but they also have the power to inspire hate, bullying, and physical attacks. These so-called leaders fomenting hate, Sen. Tom Woods, Superintendent Ryan Walters, Governor Kevin Stitt are failing Oklahoma’s youth in dangerous and myriad ways.”

There has been national outage in reaction to the death of Benedict. Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) are among those in leadership decrying the death and the political climate that LGBTQ+ advocacy groups say have been contributing factors.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson has called for federal investigations by the U.S. Justice and Education Departments.

In her social media post, the Vice-President said: “My heart goes out to Nex Benedict’s family, friends, and their entire community. To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: President Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you, and you are not alone.”

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt who in 2022 signed an anti-trans bill prohibiting students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates, wrote in his statement that “our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates, and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy — and bullies must be held accountable.”

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Oklahoma

Owasso, Okla. police release body cam footage of non-binary teen

In the video, 16-year-old Nex Benedict describes how they were bullied by three girls for “the way that we dress”

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Screenshot/YouTube Owasso Police Department body cam footage.

OWASSO, Okla. – The Owasso Police Department released Body Cam footage from the interview conducted by the Owasso High School resource officer taken at the emergency room, investigating the attack on a non-binary high school student who died a day after the attack.

In the video, 16-year-old Nex Benedict describes how they were bullied by three girls for “the way that we dress.” After Nex dumped some water on them, the girls pinned them to the floor of the restroom and beat Nex until Nex blacked out.

Nex’s mother stresses that Nex did not throw any punches or get physically combative during the attack. Facts that Nex then verified in their account to the investigating officer.

Police have confirmed to multiple media outlets that the school failed to follow procedure and notify law enforcement about the beating.

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LGBTQ+ leaders call for DOJ to investigate Nex’s death

Police backtracked after claiming trauma “did not cause” death of Nex, a trans teen beaten in an Oklahoma bathroom, and now suspect foul play

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16-year-old Nex Benedict (Family Photo)

By Erin Reed | OWASSO, Okla. – On Thursday afternoon, investigators from the Owasso Police Department filed a search warrant for cellphones and lockers of students involved in the beating of Nex Benedict, a transgender teenager in Oklahoma who lost their life following the incident.

The announcement came after a previous claim by police that initial paraphrased autopsy results showed Nex “did not die as a result of trauma,” a finding that came under scrutiny by LGBTQ+ activists and Nex’s family.

Now, LGBTQ+ rights leaders are calling for a DOJ investigation into their death, casting doubt on the initial statements of local police officers and school officials.

Here is what we know: According to early reports, after a year of being bullied over their transgender identity, Nex Benedict was involved in a fight in a bathroom in which three girls allegedly beat them. Some reports state that Nex’s head was “banged into the floor.” Nex’s mother substantiated the reports in an interview with The Independent. The school reportedly did not call an ambulance for Nex, and instead, Nex was brought to the hospital by their mother and was discharged from the hospital later that evening. The following day, Nex collapsed and was pronounced dead. In later released text messages, Nex revealed that those involved in their beating had a history of bullying them.

Following news of Nex’s death, many pointed to the influence of major anti-LGBTQ+ figures in Oklahoma and nationally. Libs of TikTok, for instance, targeted a previous teacher and mentor of Nex two years prior. Chaya Raichik, who runs the anti-LGBTQ+ hate account, was appointed to an advisory role in the state Department of Education in Oklahoma as part of a plan to “make schools safer,” according to State Schools Superintendent Ryan Walters. Walters himself has led extreme anti-trans initiatives in the state, such as directing the Department of Education to release a video calling trans people in bathrooms “an assault on truth.”

On Wednesday, though, police officers in Oklahoma released a statement questioned by many, stating that Nex’s death was not due to trauma, even though they were taken to the hospital over their head injury and experienced difficulty walking. You can see that police statement here:

While the investigation continues into the altercation. Preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a complete autopsy was performed and indicated that the decedent did not die as a result of trauma. At this time, any further comments on the cause of death are currently pending until toxicology results and other ancillary testing results are received. The official autopsy report will be available at a later date” – Owasso Police

The statement immediately aroused suspicion. Independent journalist Judd Legum wrote about the event, noting that the statement released by the police closely mirrored that issued by the school. “If the police will not release the autopsy report, why are they releasing partial, paraphrased information?” asked Legum. These sentiments were echoed by many following the case.

The statement also prompted a response by attorneys for Nex’s family calling into question the police statement:

While various investigations are still pending, the facts currently known by the family, some of which have been released to the public, are troubling at best. We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently. Notwithstanding, the family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting all available evidence.”

Meanwhile, a local transgender student who went to the same high school released their own video, claimed that they were “called slurs almost daily” and “called slurs by a teacher in the school.” They also allege that they were sexually assaulted in the school and told by the administration to keep quiet so as not to ruin their attacker’s life. “The administration has never cared about its LGBTQ+ students, the murder of Nex is a direct product of their design,” they say, adding later, “Now they are playing the cover-up game, one that they know all to well, because they have been using it the last ten years.”

The same day, many LGBTQ+ leaders began calling for a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice, casting doubt on the credibility of local police officers and investigators’ ability to impartially carry out justice. Brandon Wolf, a Pulse survivor and national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, stated, “The Department of Justice needs to tap in. Nex’s family deserves a full, thorough investigation into what happened.” Similar calls for DOJ involvement came from Kelly Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. Other major LGBTQ+ figures, such as Senator Sarah McBride, the first transgender candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, similarly called for a “full investigation.”

Now, one day after releasing their statement that trauma was not involved in Nex’s death, the Owasso Police Department appears to be backtracking. A search warrant from the police department was filed looking targeting the cell phones and lockers of those suspected of involvement in Nex’s death. The search warrant states that “Owasso police officers suspect foul play involved and need to initiate an in-depth investigation into the death.”

The search warrants of cellphones may be important in establishing if any premeditation occurred around the incident and can establish a track record around targeted hate and a history of animosity towards Nex over their transgender status.

Many prominent Democrats have issued calls for justice for Nex and an end to anti-LGBTQ+ hate, including Representative Nancy PelosiSenator Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Mark Takano.

The Biden administration and the Department of Justice, however, have yet to comment on the incident. Meanwhile, questions about the competency and motives of the Owasso Police Department remain prominent. Unless the Department of Justice gets involved, there may always be lingering questions and doubts about the ability to serve justice in Nex’s death.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

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White House responds to nonbinary teenager’s death

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year

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Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma, died on Feb. 8 after a fight at their high school. (Family photo)

WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national advocacy groups issued statements on Wednesday about the death of nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict after they were allegedly assaulted in a high school restroom.

Benedict died on Feb. 8. According to ABC News, officials investigating the incident said they will be interviewing students and staff “over the next few weeks” and plan to share findings with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

The victim’s mother told the Independent that Benedict had suffered bullying over their gender since the start of the 2023 school year, shortly after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to prohibit students from using public school restrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” Jean-Pierre said in a post on X. “Our hearts are with Nex Benedict’s family, their friends, and their entire school community in the wake of this horrific tragedy.”

Calling Benedict’s death a “gut-wrenching tragedy that exposes the chilling reality of anti-trans hatred,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “We are reaching out to the DOJ, we are encouraging the community to speak out.”

Along with Robinson’s remarks, HRC’s Press Team included a link to the organization’s blog post about Benedict and a statement from Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC Transgender Justice Initiative:

related

“Extremist anti-LGBTQ+ hate accounts, like online troll Chaya Raichik, the woman behind ‘Libs of TikTok’, who was recently appointed to Oklahoma’s library advisory board, are perpetuating a vile and hateful narrative that is permitting these types of public attacks,” she wrote.

State schools superintendent Ryan Walters, who last year called transgender youth using public restrooms “an assault on truth” and a danger to other kids, was responsible for naming Raichik to the library media panel.

“The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth,” Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma wrote in a joint statement.

“We are deeply troubled by reports the school failed to respond appropriately to the altercation that preceded Nex’s death and demand a thorough, open investigation into the matter,” the groups wrote.

Their statement also notes the organizations’ lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Senate Bill 615, the bathroom bill signed by Stitt last year.

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Oklahoma non-binary high schooler dies after physical altercation

The school district has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik

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16-year-old non-binary Nex (Dagny) Benedict died from injuries suffered in a physical altercation at Owasso High School on February 7th, 2024. (Family Photo)

OWASSO, Okla. – Located in Tulsa County on U.S. Highway 169 six miles north of Tulsa’s city limits, this city of 39,328 persons is grappling with conflict and accusations after Nex (Dagny) Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School non-binary sophomore, died after a physical fight in a restroom at the school.

However, according to school officials there was no notification or staff awareness of the fight until the young student had been taken to hospital and later died. The Owasso Police Department is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the student’s death.

According to the local newspaper, the Owasso Reporter:

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, around 3:30 p.m., police were called to Bailey Medical Center by the parent of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who allegedly had a physical altercation at the campus earlier that day, according to the police report.

It states that no initial report of the fight was made to police prior to their admission to Bailey, although information was taken by a school resource officer at the hospital.

On Thursday evening, police were made aware that the student was rushed back to the hospital where they were pronounced dead from a medical episode, the report states.

Editor’s note. The following report is from KJRH-TV News 2 which does use pronouns other than those used by non-binary persons. Those have been placed in brackets for clarity.

KJRH-TV News 2 in neighboring Tulsa reported that a person knowledgeable of the events leading to the teen’s death, who claimed to be the mother of the victim’s best friend, told the station regarding the teen’s death:

“I think complications from brain trauma, head trauma, is what caused it,” she said.

The woman wouldn’t say the victim’s name but said [she] was a sophomore. She said the victim was outgoing and loyal once they got comfortable and was not afraid to be outspoken. The woman said three older girls were beating on the victim and her daughter in the girl’s bathroom.

“I know at one point, one of the girls was pretty much repeatedly beating [their] head across the floor,” she said. That’s when [they said] a teacher walked in and broke it up.

“[They] couldn’t walk to the nurses’ station on [their] own, and staff didn’t call the ambulance, which amazes me,” she said.

The woman told 2 News the victim’s grandmother, who [they] primarily lived with, brought [them] to the hospital after the fight. She said the victim was released that evening but was brought back the next day and died.

KJRH-TV News 2 reached out multiple times along with other media outlets to Owasso Public Schools. A School district spokesperson responded saying there would be no comment “because this is an active police investigation.”

The Owasso Police Department also declined to comment except for noting investigators still don’t know if the fight was related to the teen’s death or if a separate medical issue was the cause. OPD said they’re waiting on the corner-medical examiner’s report before releasing more information.

Owasso Public Schools released this statement about the student’s death:

“The Owasso Police Department has notified district leaders of the death of an Owasso High School student. The student’s name and cause of death have not yet been made public. As this is an active police investigation, we will have no additional comment at this time. Further inquiries should be directed to the Owasso Police Department.”

“The district will have additional counselors at the school to provide support to students and staff beginning on Friday.”

On Feb. 15, after a service was held at Mowery Funeral Service Chapel, Benedict was buried at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Collinsville.

LGBTQ+ advocates and others are angered by the death, the misgendering in local media and the fact that the school district, which has been previously targeted by the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs of TikTok’s creator Chaya Raichik, seems unable to grapple with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

Raichik was named to sit on an Oklahoma committee reviewing school library content by far-right leaning State Superintendent of schools Ryan Walters.

In 2022, Raichik targeted a now former Owasso 8th grade teacher for speaking out in support of LGBTQ+ students who lacked acceptance from their parents. That teacher, Tyler Wrynn, was labeled a ‘groomer’ and a predator in social media posts.

According to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, Raichik’s endless targeting only seems to encourage more violence against LGBTQ+ youth.

Lance Preston, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Rainbow Youth Project, which has been working to assist queer youth in the state, posted a video expressing his frustration and anger over this death and the other anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

 

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Oklahoma Legislature moves to ban Pride from state government

“Oklahoma taxpayer dollars should not be used to promote or recognize activities that are not in line with the values of most Oklahomans”

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Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City. (Photo Credit: Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma)

OKLAHOMA, Okla. – A bill, introduced Monday in the Oklahoma Legislature, passed the State Powers Committee Tuesday with a 7-2 vote along party lines, that effectively would ban state agencies from celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month or displaying rainbow Pride flags on state property at anytime of year.

The bill is now headed for debate and vote by the House.

Relevant section of HB 3217 “Patriotism Not Pride Act.” 

The bill sponsored by Republicans state Rep. Kevin West and state Sen. David Boullard, would trigger an immediate state of emergency “necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety” and would also ban any flag “that represents sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In an email to NBC News, West explained he authored the legislation “because Oklahoma taxpayer dollars should not be used to promote or recognize activities that are not in line with the values of most Oklahomans.”

“These groups would still have the freedom to express their views or opinions or tell the world about their lifestyle choices, they would simply not be able to use state resources to do so,” West wrote.

Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said the bill is “clearly designed to chill speech, and further disrupt the ability of Oklahoma agencies to serve” LGBTQ Oklahomans.

“We’re everywhere — small towns, big cities, on tribal land, and everywhere in between,” McAfee said in a statement to NBC News. “We make up communities, and even work for the state. You can’t ban us or disappear us, and it’s a shame that Rep. Kevin West is continuing his obsessive focus on targeting and isolating 2SLGBTQ+ Oklahomans with [this] latest attack. And yet, we’ve always been here and will always be here, during pride and beyond.” 

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Oklahoma appoints Libs Of TikTok “To make schools safer”

Chaya Raichik, creator of the anti-LGBTQ+ account Libs of TikTok, was appointed to the state’s Library Media Advisory Committee

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State superintendent of public instruction for the Oklahoma State Department of Education Ryan Walters (L) with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on Sept. 14, 2023 at the DoE. (Photo Credit: Ryan Walters/Facebook)

By Erin Reed | OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Ryan Walters, the state superintendent of public instruction for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, has appointed Chaya Raichik, creator of the extremist online Twitter account known as Libs of TikTok, to the Library Media Advisory Committee on Tuesday.

He claimed that she would help “make Oklahoma schools safer for kids and friendly to parents.” Her appointment, however, contrasts with her history of targeting LGBTQ+ people in schools and hospitals through viral posts that often precede bomb threats against her targets.

This appointment is not Superintendent Walters’ first controversial decision. Previously, he advocated for policies promoting Christianity in public schools and entered into an agreement with PragerU to provide right-wing educational programming in schools. This educational programming claimed, among other things, that slavery was “no big deal.”

Libs of TikTok, managed by Raichik, became active in 2021 and quickly gained notoriety for posting videos and pictures of transgender and queer individuals, medical providers, teachers, and Pride events.

These posts often include editorialized captions labeling the subjects as groomers. The account’s viral posts frequently precede bomb threats against its targets. For instance, after a post about Boston Children’s Hospital’s transgender care, the hospital received bomb threats, leading to intermittent shutdowns.

In Kiel, Wisconsin, following a tweet about a transgender person in the local school district, multiple responses called for violence against the district. Consequently, Kiel schools faced a month of disruption due to bomb threats.

Other instances of violent threats following her posts have affected the University of South Dakota, a library in North Carolina, and even a librarian in Oklahoma’s Union Public Schools district. Now, Raichik will have direct influence over the library system that her posts have endangered.

Raichik appears unfazed by the violence her posts seem to spur, and in fact seems to revel in it. In an article published by Media Matters, the site 35 identified threats of violence in one report. Another disinformation researcher found 66 instances of threats following her tweets, often within 5 days of posting.

When USA Today published a groundbreaking article titled “When Libs of TikTok tweets, threats increasingly follow,” the account posted a picture of Raichik holding the paper and posing with a smile. She also changed her banner for a short time to a picture of her logo with bomb fuses attached to it.

Despite this history, or perhaps because of it, Superintendent Walters took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce that Libs of TikTok would be appointed to the state Library Media Advisory Committee. In the announcement, Walters praised her for resisting “Woke indoctrination on our kids” and stated that her presence would be integral to “making Oklahoma schools safer for kids and friendly to parents.”

You can see the letter here:

Ryan Walters has been supportive of other far-right influencers and causes. In July of 2023, Ryan Walters announced that he wanted “the bible” in schools instead of LGBTQ+ books.

In September, he announced that the state Department of Education would enter into a partnership with PragerU, a far right media organization that has promoted anti-LGBTQ+ views and inaccurate claims about slavery and racism, including a video using Frederick Douglass to rationalize slavery.

On January 2nd, he announced a fight against “state sponsored atheism” and the intent to have the Ten Commandments displayed in schools.

Oklahoma has been the site of fearsome anti-LGBTQ+ politics in recent years. The governor has released guidance that would end legal recognition for transgender people in the state through a definition of “sex” that excludes recognition of legal transition.

The state has also banned gender affirming care for trans youth, implemented bathroom bans in schools, and even requires “biological sex affidavits” from student athletes. This year, the state has 23 bills submitted targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

Following the announcement, Representative Forrest Bennett, representing the 92nd district of Oklahoma, stated:

I can’t respond to every terrible thing @RyanWaltersSupt does. But his appointment of the Libs of TikTok founder is terrible enough to justify it. Her content led to a week of bomb threats @ Tulsa schools. And she’s proud of that. Ryan says he’s “proud to have her on the team.”

Meanwhile, a statement from the Democratic House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson read:

“The Superintendent’s announcement to appoint the person who runs the anti-LGTBQ social media account, Libs of TikTok, to the Oklahoma State Department of Education Library Media Advisory Committee is not a surprise, but disheartening and dangerous. Since the Republican supermajority refuses to hold Ryan Walters accountable, he continues to demonstrate his inability to do his job of taking care of our public schools. As each day passes, he becomes more of a threat to the safety of our public school administrators, teachers, students, and families – appointing the person who was behind directing hate and threats to Tulsa Public Schools last year proves my point. As the Republican supermajority has dismissed House Democrats’ call for an impeachment inquiry, Ryan Walters has yet to be held accountable and continues to be emboldened to destroy our public schools. What will enough be enough?”

The Oklahoman: (Link)

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Okla. board asks textbooks altered: Moms for Liberty complained

A state board requested a major publisher remove portions of its math textbooks for students in pre-K through fifth grade after complaint

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McGraw Hill Education Division/Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Carmen Forman | OKLAHOMA CITY — A state board requested a major publisher remove portions of its math textbooks for students in pre-K through fifth grade after a local conservative group complained.

Despite the textbooks receiving the top rating from a review team made up of dozens of teachers, the chairwoman of the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee on Friday asked McGraw Hill to remove the “math thoughts” sections in its “Reveal Math” books in order to receive approval from the board.

If the publisher does not make the requested changes, the Reveal Math books won’t be added to a list of approved titles that districts can purchase using state textbook funds. However, districts can purchase unapproved textbooks using other funding sources.

In a previous meeting, the head of the Tulsa chapter of conservative parents’ rights group Moms for Liberty criticized the same elementary school textbooks, claiming they contain social-emotional learning concepts that don’t belong in math classes. Social-emotional learning teaches children how to manage their emotions, make good decisions and relate to others.

 Wesson

Committee Chairwoman Kendra Wesson, a State Board of Education member State Superintendent Ryan Walters tapped to lead the textbook approval process, did not mention Moms for Liberty when she objected to portions of the McGraw Hill books.

Wesson said parts of the books don’t specifically focus on teaching children how to do math. In the pre-K through second grade textbooks, she pointed to a section that she said asks questions like, “What helps you feel calm when you’re angry?” and “How can you act with your classmates to build a safe classroom culture?”

“We have things in a math book that are not related to math, that are completely separate from that,” she said. “I don’t want to give up five, 10, 15 minutes of math time for things that are not related to math.”

In the companion teachers’ manual, Wesson flagged portions of a “math mindset” section that included suggested questions like, “Were you relaxed or frustrated during math today?”

Board member Jessica Thompson, a fourth grade teacher, said she doesn’t have time to ask her students questions like, “What do you do when you feel sad?” when she’s trying to teach math.

“I don’t have the time or the knowledge to be a certified counselor … if those kids were to give me a really hard answer,” she said.

She called that portion of the books “a waste” and expressed concerns that such questions would distract educators from teaching the fundamentals of math.

Jay Rotert, another board member, wondered if pushing back to 2024 a vote on adopting McGraw Hill’s textbooks would leave the company enough time to get the new materials into classrooms for the next school year.

Citing the top ratings the review team gave the textbooks, board vice-chair Kathryn Szallar expressed optimism that McGraw Hill could make the requested changes.

“They do exemplify quality, and I do think those are the kinds of textbooks we would want in our classrooms,” she said.

The board voted to provisionally approve the textbooks contingent upon McGraw Hill making the requested changes. The board plans to revisit the issue at its next meeting.

The company will reach out to the State Department of Education to get further details about the requested changes, said spokesperson Tyler Reed.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the (Department of Education) to ensure our math materials are available to students and instructors across the state,” Reed said.

If the board does not endorse the McGraw Hill textbooks, elementary schools will have few options that could be purchased using state dollars.

In that scenario, there would be just one approved vendor for pre-K through second grade and three vendors for math textbooks for children in third through fifth grades.

At least eight textbook publishers withdrew from consideration this year, leaving the state with a limited number of new textbooks for consideration.

This is the first cycle for the textbook committee to review proposed educational materials since Walters took office in January. The new superintendent previously accused textbook companies of trying to indoctrinate students and has said it’s a good thing some vendors pulled out of the selection process.

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Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers state government, politics and health care from Oklahoma City. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Oklahoma Voice and is republished with permission.

Oklahoma Voice provides independent, nonpartisan reporting that holds officials accountable and elevates the voices of those too often sidelined by the political process.

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Oklahoma’s GOP governor targets trans rights in executive order

“This Executive Order is not about protecting women. It is a thinly veiled attack on codifying discrimination against trans women.”

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Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signs executive order that targets trans women by defining birth genders with sex-based words like ‘female,’ ‘woman,’ and ‘mother’ and protecting women-only spaces. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order Tuesday — defining sex-based words like ‘female,’ ‘woman,’ and ‘mother’ and targeting trans females by designating women-only spaces predicated on gender “assigned at birth.”

The governor’s order is directed at state agencies. The state already has restrictive laws enacted that target trans participation in sports, use of public bathrooms and other accommodations, and a bill targeting gender-affirming healthcare.

Stitt in March signed into law Senate Bill 2, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which restricts transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. He also signed the anti-Trans measure Senate Bill 615 into law, which requires all kindergarten through 12th grade students in public and charter schools to use restrooms and changing facilities associated with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Stitt also signed Senate Bill 613 that will result in criminal penalties for medical professionals providing gender-affirming healthcare for minor patients. The law now makes it a felony for physicians to provide trans youth with treatments that can include puberty-blocking drugs and hormones.

 “I am taking decisive executive action to ensure the true definition of the word woman, meaning a biological woman, is what guides the state as we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety, dignity, and sanctity of women across Oklahoma. As long as I’m governor, we will continue to protect women and ensure women-only spaces are reserved solely for biological women,” the governor said as he signed the order.

Joining the governor was Independent Women’s Voice, a right-wing anti-trans extremist group that also included Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer known for criticizing an NCAA decision allowing transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to compete against her in a women’s championship race.

Riley Gaines told those gathered at the governor’s signing ceremony, “Biological differences must be respected in the law to ensure female-only spaces have a future. It is sad that such basic truths must be spelled out to ensure equal protection, but I applaud Governor Stitt for taking decisive action today. Establishing common language by way of the Women’s Bill of Rights is a way of saying enough is enough: Oklahoman women deserve equal opportunity, privacy, and safety, and this order will help deliver it.”

Riley Gaines (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

The Associated Press reported:

In addition to requiring state agencies and boards to define the words “female” and “male” to correspond with the person’s sex assigned at birth, the executive order also includes definitions for the words “man,” “boy,” “woman,” “girl,” “father” and “mother.” The order specifically defines a female as a “person whose biological reproductive system is designed to produce ova” and a male as a “person whose biological reproductive system is designed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

It also directs schools and other state agencies to use these definitions when collecting vital statistics and further directs schools to provide dedicated restrooms and locker room facilities for boys and girls, respectively.

“Today Governor Stitt is going to claim he cares about women, while signing policy authored by an organization that has opposed both the Equal Rights Amendment and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“This Executive Order is neither about rights, nor is it about protecting women. It is a thinly veiled attack on codifying discrimination against transgender women. This bill does not protect women, but instead opens the door for further civil rights violations that open all women to being harassed and targeted as they have their femininity assessed and judged by a public who feels increased permission to police gender.

“We know that this Executive Order, like the legislation we saw from this same organization this session, is not rooted in what is best for women or even clarity within the law, rather it is a blatant celebration of transmisogyny from the Governor’s office.” said Nicole McAfee, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma.

“Two Spirit, transgender, and gender nonconforming people have always been in Oklahoma. And we’ll always be here. While we won’t pretend to be surprised that the Governor is engaging in yet another blatant attacks on our community, we will continue to act with urgency towards the future where all 2SLGBTQ+ people have the safety to thrive.”

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