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‘We will bomb every school in the Union district’: Tulsa school threatened for ‘woke ideology’

Union Public Schools

Tulsa-area Union Public Schools faced its second consecutive day of bomb threats Wednesday in response to an elementary librarian’s back-to-school TikTok video.

The librarian, which StateImpact is choosing not to name due to safety concerns, has also experienced bomb threats targeting her home. She posted a satirical video last week on TikTok saying she wasn’t finished pushing her woke agenda, and that her agenda is teaching kids to love books and be kind.

TikTok screenshot
The Union elementary school librarian posted her video on TikTok, which was then altered by a far-right account and shared.

Monday evening, an altered version of the video was then shared by a far-right TikTok account, Libs of TikTok — an account known for its anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. It left out the caption about teaching kids to love books and be kind. Libs of TikTok also added a picture of the librarian’s school bio to the end of the video, underlining a section that says she has a passion for teaching with an emphasis on social justice.

Union Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Christopher Payne said the post did not violate district policy.

Tuesday morning, the librarian’s elementary school delayed its starting time after being notified of a bomb threat. Payne said the district received notice of the threat from the Tulsa Police Department around 6 a.m. and delayed the school starting time until the building could be given an all-clear by law enforcement.

Oklahoma City news station KFOR received the email threat, which said:

“The innocence of children is sacred, that is a fact that has been known for the entirety of human history and the end of civilizations such as in ancient Rome are often marked by normalization pedophilia and child abuse. I’m not going to stand as you bastards continue to indoctrinate and prey upon our children. This is why we placed a bomb in the school. You will evacuate the building so nobody dies… [School librarian], we know where you live. You won’t escape this either, your house will be blown up.”

That morning, State Superintendent Ryan Walters reposted the altered video and wrote, “Democrats say it doesn’t exist. The liberal media denies the issue. Even some Republicans hide from it. Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it.”

It is unclear if Walters knew of the initial bomb threat before posting.

Wednesday morning, another bomb threat to the elementary school caused a second police response in as many days. Tulsa police advised the school to shelter in place while it swept the facility. The librarian’s home was threatened again as well.

KFOR posted the second threat, which reads:

“We placed a bomb at [the librarian’s elementary school address] and inside the Residence of [the librarian]. You will stop pushing this woke ideology or we will bomb every school in the union district.”

Despite the two bomb threats, as of publication, Walters’ repost of the altered video remains up. Libs of TikTok also reposted Walters’ post about it. Requests to Walters’ office for comment were not returned.

Walters has led the charge on public education culture wars in Oklahoma, focusing on what he sees as inappropriate books in school libraries and “woke” indoctrination in classrooms.

The temperature of State Board of Education meetings has also heated up since Walters took office. Two men were arrested after their alleged behavior at a June board meeting, and the meetings now gather crowds too big to fit in the small meeting room at the Oliver Hodge Building. Public comment periods often feature emotional and inflammatory remarks.

Payne says the amped-up political conversation behind the threats is baseless.

“There’s been so much rhetoric out there about book-banning and grooming of children and all of these nefarious things that really, if you look at our librarians, it’s just so counter to what the truth is,” Payne said. “But you know, there are folks out there that just think it’s nefarious. [But] there’s no agenda. There’s none of that. We’re just trying to educate children. And it’s that simple.”

He says it’s unfortunate the incidents come right after the district’s “smooth opening” last week, and he hopes last week is more indicative of how the rest of the school year is going to go.

“It’s hard to make parents feel that their children are safe and comfortable when we keep getting threats,” Payne said. “It’s just very unsettling.”

Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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