© 2024 KGOU
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Edmond Public Schools petitions Oklahoma Supreme Court to intervene in book removal demands from OSDE

Norman High Library

Edmond Public Schools is pushing back against a rule from the Oklahoma Department of Education requiring districts to remove certain library books. The district petitioned the State Supreme Court Tuesday to weigh in on whether the rule is valid.

District Superintendent Angela Grunewald sent a letter to parents Tuesday outlining the district’s position. She said OSDE ordered Edmond to remove two books from its high school library — something she said is not within the agency’s authority.

The books in question are The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Unless the books are removed, OSDE is threatening to downgrade the district’s accreditation status.

In the filing, petitioners say the rule was adopted without statutory authority. It prohibits library media content that includes “pornography” and “sexualized content” and was enacted last year, despite an opinion from Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond that said the agency did not have the authority to create such a rule.

After the AG’s opinion — which had been requested by Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) — was released, the Legislature declined to approve or deny the rule. Gov. Kevin Stitt signed off on its approval last summer.

Grunewald said in a video released Tuesday the district has its own policy of selecting and removing library books, and its policy is protected by federal court rulings.

“The Court is the place that can tell us what we need to do, or does this rule even stand on its own merit?” Grunewald said. “Does it even have the right to say that we have to do this, or this? So that is why we are filing this, is to find out what is the best decision and how to protect our district.”

In addition to requesting a ruling on the validity of the rule, petitioners are also asking to stay OSDE’s proceedings against the district in the meantime.

The demand to remove the books comes after a recommendation from the department’s new Library Media Advisory Committee, to which conservative Libs of TikTok media personality Chaya Raichik was appointed last month.

Grunewald said despite the committee’s assertion the two books contained pornography, the district does not keep pornographic books in its library. Both books contain depictions of sexual assault.

“You may hear that the books we have been ordered to remove constitute pornography,” Grunewald wrote in her letter to parents. “I want to be clear that, although the district did not file this action to argue the merits of any particular book, Edmond Public Schools has never included pornography in any of its library collections.”

State Superintendent Ryan Walters released a statement Tuesday in response to the filing, claiming without providing evidence the district was engaging in “ongoing subversion of accountability.”

“Edmond Public Schools not only allows kids to access porn in schools, they are doubling down to keep pornography on the bookshelves,” Walters wrote. “Instead of focusing on education, EPS has chosen to peddle porn and is leading the charge to undermine parents in Oklahoma.”

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

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.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.