Ray Carter | March 21, 2022

Public-school ‘advocate’ says schools should be more ‘woke’

Ray Carter

The administrator of a Facebook group whose supposed goal is to “unite all educators, parents, and advocates for education” has declared Oklahoma schools need to be more “woke,” attacked parents concerned about graphic portrayals of rape and incest in school library materials as “extremists,” repeatedly declared conservatives are racist, and more.

And that’s just since the start of February.

Jami Cole is a Duncan school teacher and administrator of the Oklahoma Edvocates Facebook group. The Facebook page for Oklahoma Edvocates states that its purpose is “to unite all educators, parents, and advocates for education in the state of Oklahoma, so we can come together and educate, collaborate, and discuss what options we have moving forward to improve Public Education.”

On March 17, Cole tweeted, “When someone tells me they won’t let Oklahoma schools go ‘woke’ it makes me want to woke harder.”

In current colloquial use, the term “woke” refers to a near-constant focus on racial and “social justice” issues, generally from a far-left viewpoint. “Woke” policies often overlap with the broad tenets of Critical Race Theory, such as the idea that people are either victims or privileged based on the color of their skin.

On March 15, Cole responded to a report about the state of Mississippi passing a ban on Critical Race Theory in schools by tweeting, “At least we aren’t Mississippi… oh wait.”

“If the teachers, tribes, and medical professionals come together we will vote out the most fascist Governor we have ever had.” —Duncan school teacher Jami Cole, administrator of the Oklahoma Edvocates Facebook group

In 2021, the Oklahoma Legislature voted to ban the teaching of several concepts broadly associated with Critical Race Theory. House Bill 1775, which was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, made it illegal to teach Oklahoma students that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” The legislation also banned teaching that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex,” or teaching students that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”

In a March 12 tweet, Cole dismissed concerns about Critical Race Theory in Oklahoma classrooms as “a problem that doesn’t exist.” That comment was made five days prior to Cole declaring that Oklahoma schools should become more “woke.”

Cole has also dismissed parental concern over graphic sexual material in school library books, including descriptions of rape and incest that some experts say may retraumatize child survivors of abuse.

On March 14, Cole tweeted, “In a state of far right extremists who want to ban books and drive out public schools, I’m going to be the opposite.”

On Feb. 23, Cole labeled Rep. Sherrie Conley, a Newcastle Republican who is a former teacher and administrator, “a raging book banner.” Among the bills Conley has filed this year is one that would guarantee parents the right to view the school-library records of their children.

Cole has also attacked efforts to restrict discussions of sexual orientation with very young children.

On Feb. 21, Cole tweeted, “The Florida #DontSayGay bill is atrocious.”

The Florida bill referenced by Cole—which does not ban use of the word “gay”—instead states, “School district personnel may not discourage or prohibit parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,” unless there is reason to believe disclosure would “result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.” The legislation also states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Cole has also opposed a proposal, first unveiled by Stitt, which could allow some Oklahoma teachers to earn up to $100,000 per year. Under that proposal, the state would provide matching funds to local districts to provide pay raises to top-performing teachers who help other educators improve in the classroom.

On March 8, Cole referred to the $100,000 teacher pay effort as “pandering lies” and compared the merit-pay measure to “hunger games.” On March 18, she tweeted, “Do teachers deserve $100,000? Yes, some do. Would I play Gov Stitt’s and Ryan Walters Education Games to get it? No. Emphatically, the answer is no.”

(Walters is Stitt’s cabinet secretary for education and a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction.)

Cole’s Twitter feed includes numerous statements of support for Democratic Party positions and candidates, and attacks on Republicans and conservatives.

On Feb. 4, Cole tweeted that “a lot of teachers are Democrats.” On March 15, Cole tweeted her endorsement of Democrat Kendra Horn in the race to replace retiring U.S. Senate Jim Inhofe. That came just three days after her March 12 tweet endorsing Democratic candidate Jason Bollinger, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. James Lankford. On March 16, Cole tweeted that she “won’t be voting for any Republicans if that’s not clear,” referring to congressional races.

Cole has repeatedly accused conservatives of racism, although she cites no specific evidence.

On March 13, Cole tweeted that Stitt and Walters “are spewing White Christian Nationalism for our school kids. It’s the real indoctrination.”

On March 10, she similarly tweeted about “White Christian Nationalism” and said Republican-voting states like Oklahoma “are becoming dangerously close to authoritarian states. It’s scary watching women and children being ‘policed’ and it’s happening here.”

On Feb. 28, Cole tweeted, “America first=white Christian nationalism.”

On Feb. 12, Cole tweeted, “If the teachers. Tribes, and medical professionals come together we will vote out the most fascist Governor we have ever had.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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