WALTERS WATCH: Ahead of Tomorrow’s State Board of Education Meeting, Oklahomans Across the State Demand Legislators Hold Ryan Walters Accountable for Failing Students — But Walters Seeks to Hide From Any Criticism

by Delphine Luneau

Public Comment Guidelines Altered at Eleventh Hour to Make it More Difficult For Members of Public to Ensure They’ll be Heard at Board Meeting – But Oklahomans Won’t Be Intimidated into Not Showing Up

At People’s Hearing in Tulsa, Board of Education Members Fail to Show Up, Passing Up Golden Opportunity to Hear from Constituents About How State Education System is Letting its Students Down

At Letter Writing Event in Oklahoma City, Community Members Gather to Ask Their Lawmakers to Exercise Oversight Powers and Rein in Walters

Headline From The Frontier: “Under Ryan Walters, Oklahoma Lost Federal Funding To Help Schools Respond To Tragedies”

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - Given the steps Ryan Walters has taken to shield himself from public scrutiny, Oklahomans from all walks of life gathered in Tulsa and Oklahoma City on Tuesday evening at a pair of events to register their anger and frustration with his failed leadership as the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, allowing the state’s education system to stagnate and fostering a climate hostile to its LGBTQ+ students.

These events arrived ahead of tomorrow’s monthly meeting of the state Board of Education, which is held during the workday, and traditionally potential speakers must line up a day in advance to secure one of only 10 slots for public comments. However, less than 24 hours before tomorrow’s meeting the Department announced that the public comment will be handled “at random”, allowing Ryan Walters to essentially hand select the people allowed to speak. This lack of transparency is inexcusable for an ostensibly public meeting of the bureaucratic body responsible for the wellbeing and education of Oklahoma’s 700,000 public school students.

Despite these restrictions, Oklahomans will once again travel to the board meeting tomorrow to make their voices heard and demand that the legislature hold him accountable for failing Oklahoma students and schools.

Months after the death of Nex Benedict, Ryan Walters continues to receive public criticism and push back from Oklahomans during State Board of Education meetings on everything from Oklahoma's ranking of #49 in the country on K-12 education, his mismanagement of funds, and the hostile environment he’s created for LGBTQ+ students. He promised to never back down, but rather than address the concerns of the people he is charged with serving, he has decided to silence them by changing the rules, less than 24 hours in advance, on who can speak in public meetings. His so-called commitment to transparency is as flimsy as his courage - because bullies hate to be held accountable. Walters is yet again demonstrating his abject failure to serve the needs of Oklahoma students and putting his own ego and political ambition ahead of the basics of doing his job. Walters needs to explain to Oklahomans why he doesn’t believe he needs to hear their concerns.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC Senior Director for Legal Policy
Erica Watkins of Defense of Democracy speaks Tuesday evening at the People’s Hearing in Tulsa, where community members gathered to talk about the challenges facing Oklahoma’s education system

At Tuesday night’s event in Tulsa, a community that has been tremendously impacted by Ryan Walters’ power grabs, community members gathered for the People’s Hearing, an event where members of the Board of Education were invited to hear from a cross-section of individuals about their concerns with the state of Oklahoma’s poor education system and its utter failure to protect LGBTQ+ students. None of the members of the Board of Education who were invited took the time to attend.

Community members gather at the Diversity Center in Oklahoma City to write postcards to their lawmakers demanding that Ryan Walters be held accountable for his failed leadership

At the same time, in Oklahoma City, dozens of community members converged to write postcards to their lawmakers calling out the failed leadership of Ryan Walters and asking them to use their oversight authority to rein in his malicious and harmful policy proposals that only serve to further his own political aspirations at the expense of students.

These public gatherings came just hours after The Frontier dropped a major expose that details how a fumbled and neglected grant application process at the Oklahoma State Department of Education led to a lapse in federal funding for a program that provides crisis assistance to school districts dealing with emergency situations. This is just the latest reporting on how Walters’ mismanagement and incompetence has cost Oklahoma schools millions of dollars in federal grants, all while the state remains ranked 49th in the nation in K-12 education.

Community members and advocates will once again travel across to the state to gather Thursday at the state Board of Education meeting in Oklahoma City, despite the extreme restrictions on access to the meeting, as they have every month since news of the tragic death of nonbinary student Nex Benedict emerged, exposing to the nation the failure of Walters’ leadership and shining a new light on a state bureaucracy that is crumbling under his guidance. They will also deliver their postcards to Oklahoma legislators at the state capitol, demanding they take action to hold Walters to account for his failures.

As an Oklahoman and a parent of a trans kid, I know how high the stakes are for Oklahoma schools,” said HRC spokesperson Nicole Poindexter. “Ryan Walters continues to fail Oklahoma students, and this latest move earns him an F in transparency and accountability.

Nicole Poindexter, HRC Spokesperson

WHAT: Oklahoma State Board of Education monthly meeting

WHO: Human Rights Campaign, Freedom Oklahoma, Defense of Democracy, Oklahoma parents, educators, and clergy

WHERE: Oliver Hodge Education Building, Room 1-20
Oklahoma State Capitol
2500 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City

WHEN: Thursday, May 23, 2024, community members and advocates arrive by 8:30 AM CDT, meeting begins at 9:30 AM CDT

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email