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AM NewsBrief: April 13, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, April 13, 2023

Board of Education Responds To Biden Administration Rules Related To Transgender Students, Title IX

The Oklahoma State Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday to respond to recently proposed rules from the Biden Administration related to transgender students and Title IX. The proposal is in conflict with a state law passed last year banning transgender girls and women from playing on female teams.

The state school board voted unanimously, ordering all Oklahoma schools to submit reports that list sports offered by each district, broken down by grade level and which sports are separated into boys’ and girls’ teams. The reports should also contain any district policies on sex-separated sports, and a list of sports, if any, that don’t comply with current state law.

The Biden Administration’s proposed changes would prohibit categorical bans on transgender students from playing on K-12 and college sports teams that align with their gender identity. But there’s some flexibility: schools would still be able to have sex-separated teams if the nature of the sport is highly competitive — like a high school team with try-outs and cuts — or is a contact sport.

Oklahoma schools have 21 days to submit the reports to the board.

Oklahoma Health Officials: Public Health Lab Needs More Money

Lawmakers say they’re planning to give the state’s health department $3-9 million more for the public health laboratory. StateImpact’s Catherine Sweeney reports the funding should cover a final round of renovations as well as advanced biosafety equipment.

During a Senate hearing last week, Oklahoma lawmakers said the state’s public health laboratory is still outsourcing several tests, and they plan to include a final round of investment to get the equipment the state needs to bring those in house.

The lab had been outdated and falling apart for decades before the Stitt Administration announced it would move the lab from Oklahoma City to Stillwater in 2020.

Health labs are assigned different biosafety levels, based on how much health risk the lab can contain with its equipment and protocols. There are four levels. The first level doesn’t require much: standard personal protective equipment, a sink for handwashing. Those are allowed to work with microbes that aren’t very dangerous. Right now, Oklahoma’s health lab is at a level 2. A spokesperson for the lab said the state is outsourcing tests that require level 3 biosafety, such as tuberculosis.

The legislative session ends in May, and lawmakers tend to write and vote on the state’s budget shortly before they adjourn.

Tulsa Race Massacre Investigators Say They've Sequenced DNA From 6 Possible Victims

Tulsa's search for graves of 1921 race massacre victims took a step forward (Tuesday). Officials announced that genetic profiles have been extracted from exhumed remains.

Mayor G.T. Bynum announced that the remains of six people exhumed at Oaklawn Cemetery have yielded DNA profiles traceable to people currently alive.

“We do not believe a match of this type has ever been achieved before,” said Bynum.

It's still unclear whether the six people are race massacre victims. Allison Wilde, who works in genealogy for DNA testing nonprofit Intermountain Forensics, said a good way to help clear up the identities of the dead is to donate to the DNA database.

“The very best way you can help...is to participate in this project by using DNA,” said Wilde.

However, the nonprofit Justice for Greenwood that is active in suing the city on behalf of living race massacre victims, has urged people to avoid giving DNA. Justice for Greenwood argues that is it unwise to let the city build a database full of DNA from Black people that could be accessed by the public. Wilde said there are privacy options available, spelled out on Intermountain's website.

“You can use our chart to select different upload options,” said Wilde.

So far, 27 people have been exhumed in the search for race massacre victims.

Fort Sill Death

Officials are investigating after a soldier serving on Fort Sill was found dead in his home off-post.

Fort Sill officials announced that a drill sergeant with the 434th Artillery Brigade was found dead in his home off-post Tuesday morning.

Brigade Commander Colonel Michael Stewart was solemn in a statement included in the announcement.

He said, “We are saddened by the loss of a teammate, our thoughts are with the family, loved ones and fellow Soldiers during this difficult time.”

Lawton Police Department and Fort Sill’s Criminal Investigations Division is investigating.

Fire Chances Rising In Western Oklahoma As Drought Persists

Oklahomans can brace for another hike in fire danger at the end of this week and on into the next.

Although drought conditions continue to improve across the state, the panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma remain in exceptional or extreme drought, putting them particularly at risk for fires.

The Oklahoma Forestry Service says most of western Oklahoma has gone more than 40 days since receiving any significant moisture. In the panhandle, Texas County has gone almost eight months. As a cold front blows more dry air across the state on Friday, the Forestry Service says fire-favoring conditions will reach “a crescendo.”

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