Ray Carter | July 25, 2022

Putnam City school gets Gay-Straight grant

Ray Carter

Putnam City North High School has received a $10,000 grant from the It Gets Better Project to expand “the reach” of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

The Oklahoma school district was one of only 50 middle and/or high school sites nationwide to receive funding from the organization.

In a release, officials with It Gets Better said the grants would “support school-based projects empowering LGBTQ+ students,” but did not specify what that programming would involve.

Among other things, one of the grants went to a Colorado school “remodeling single-gender restrooms into gender-neutral ones” and another grant paid for “a gender-inclusive closet providing affirming clothes for trans and gender non-conforming students in New Mexico.”

The referenced “gender-inclusive” closets typically allow students to change clothes at school. For example, a male student who identifies as female can change into a dress after arriving at school. The closets have been criticized by some groups because school officials are effectively encouraging students to keep secrets from their parents and even deceive their parents.

The school website for the Putnam City district describes its Gay-Straight Alliance as a “student-run organization which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

The practice of incorporating discussions of sexual orientation and transgender issues into school settings has become increasingly controversial nationwide with many parents preferring such issues be discussed at home with parental figures present.

In some worst-case instances, school officials who have touted a school focus on sexual orientation and transgender issues have later been accused of trying to isolate students from their families and some school officials have even been accused of criminal acts.

In one high-profile case, 41-year-old Eric Rohman, an employee in the Mt. Pleasant Public School System in Michigan, was recently arrested for trying to meet with a minor for sex. Rohman’s arrest occurred as part of a sting operation that targeted child predators.

Prior to his arrest, Rohman had spoken at a meeting of the local school board in support of LGBT instruction, declaring students were “hungry for knowledge” on the topic and were going to “do it anyway, no matter what you say or do.” As part of that speech, Rohman declared that “for the last five years I have had the profound privilege of working with your students.”

In Oklahoma, Owasso teacher Tyler Wrynn was fired this year after posting a video online in which he declared, “If your parents don’t accept you for who you are, f--k them. I’m your parents now.” In a subsequent post discussing his firing, Wrynn said he “was a little too vocal about supporting our LGBTQIA+ kids.” On a blog site, Wrynn had previously written that much of his work as a teacher involved countering the parental instruction provided to his students on various social issues.

Even when school officials are not suspected of legal wrongdoing, recent polling indicates many citizens are uneasy with school officials trying to take the lead on youth discussions of sexual identity and gender identity.

The American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers’ union that has generally supported transgender causes, commissioned a poll of 1,758 likely voters in seven politically competitive “battleground” states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The poll, conducted from May 21 to May 30, found most voters are opposed to schools replacing parents as the source of information on such topics.

The poll showed 58 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied with the “way students are taught about issues related to sexual preference and gender identity,” compared to just 23 percent who were satisfied. Thirty-seven percent were “very dissatisfied.”

Among those who expressed dissatisfaction, the poll found 31 percent said students were “too young” for the material and 27 percent said parents should be the source of teaching on those topics. Another 12 percent expressed concern about indoctrination. Just 11 percent of the dissatisfied said they felt there was not enough teaching on sexual preference and gender identity.

A separate question found 43 percent of voters said schools devote “too much time” to “teaching children about sexual preference and gender identity,” compared to just 21 percent who said not enough time was devoted to those topics.

The poll showed that 54 percent of voters were more likely to support a Republican candidate who believes “parents should have the option to decide whether their child receives instruction on gender and transgender issues.” Just 25 percent were less likely to support that candidate.

And 54 percent said they were more likely to support a Republican candidate who supports legislation that “prohibits teaching in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity.” Just 27 percent were less likely to support that candidate.

The poll showed that 48 percent of voters were more likely to support a Republican candidate who said schools “should be required to notify parents if their child attempts to join a club involving sexuality, gender or gender identity.” Only 28 percent were less likely to support that candidate.

The poll showed 51 percent of voters were more likely to support a Republican candidate who said “schools must stop ‘grooming’ students by encouraging them to question their gender identity or sexual preference.” Only 30 percent were less likely to support that candidate.

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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