Oklahoma’s top school board denies requests to change trans students’ gender records

Two students obtained court orders affirming their gender identity

By: - October 26, 2023 5:11 pm

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted on Thursday to block two school districts from complying with court orders to change transgender students' gender markers. (Photo by Brent Fuchs/For Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday denied two requests to change students’ gender markers on school records.

The requests came from Cushing Public Schools and Moore Public Schools. A student in each district obtained a court order from district judges to change their gender markers on all records.

Although State Superintendent Ryan Walters claimed there is no legal precedent for these requests, an attorney representing both students said the board’s decision contradicts previous state Supreme Court decisions, attorney general opinions and the state Constitution.

Joshua Payton, of the Oklahoma Equality Law Center, indicated the families would take further legal action.

“Ryan Walters pays no respect to the law and does not care for the well-being of Oklahoma students and their families,” Payton said in a statement. “We will see you in court.”

Walters has supported legislation and rules to limit transgender students to the bathrooms and sports teams that align with their gender at birth, as opposed to the gender with which they identify. He’s also criticized schools for stocking LGBTQ+ books in their libraries. 

“What we’re seeing is part of this war on our schools to inject this (transgender) ideology,” Walters said during the meeting. “So, I believe we’ve got to continue to stand in line, stand in the way, I would say, of these radical leftist Biden judges that are standing here trying to dictate this to our schools.”

The U.S. president appoints only federal court judges. District court judges are publicly elected or appointed by the governor.

The state Board of Education voted last month to require school districts to get permission from the board before authorizing a gender designation change.

They did so after the Moore district notified the Oklahoma State Department of Education that it had received a court order to change a high school student’s sex designation on school records.

The 16 year old’s parents asked a Cleveland County district judge to rule that all records should reflect the student’s gender identity, and the judge agreed. Any other gender designation for the student is “incorrect,” the judge’s court order states.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters consults Oklahoma State Department of Education general counsel Bryan Cleveland during an Aug. 24, 2023, meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Education in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Brent Fuchs/For Oklahoma Voice)

Education Department general counsel Bryan Cleveland said the Cushing student’s court order from a Payne County judge was almost an exact copy of the Moore student’s. He called the rulings “activist judge orders” that have no basis in state statute.

Thursday’s meeting was the first time the state Board of Education members considered whether to allow a school district to follow such an order.

The five board members in attendance voted unanimously to deny the requests.

Cushing Superintendent Melissa Amon said her district will comply with the state board’s decision.

“This is the first time we’ve been through it,” Amon said. “We don’t know what to expect next. We’re just trying to do the best we can with the situation we’re in.”

Amon said the affected family has been “good to work with” and her office has kept them updated on the proceedings.

Moore schools will continue to work with the district’s legal counsel and the state Board of Education, spokesperson Anna Aguilar said in a statement.

The two affected students are among the “most vulnerable students in the state,” said Payton, the families’ attorney.

He called the board’s decision “abhorrent and irresponsible” and an attempt at political gain.



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Nuria Martinez-Keel
Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel covers education for Oklahoma Voice. She worked in newspapers for six years, more than four of which she spent at The Oklahoman covering education and courts. Nuria is an Oklahoma State University graduate.