Walters calls for elimination of DEI in public schools

Ray Carter | December 21, 2023

Following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent executive order that restricts “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programs and staff in state colleges and universities, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is proposing new regulations that will impose similar restrictions on public K-12 schools.

“We need to make sure that our schools are focused on getting back to the basics, not focused on resources and programs that divide us,” Walters said. “Our kids—every single one of them—are created in God’s own image. He created us as individuals, not as members of groups like ‘oppressed’ and ‘oppressors.’ We all have God-given potential and the role of education is to unlock that potential, not to destroy it at the altar of woke indoctrination.”

In general, DEI programs label students as belonging to either a category of “oppressed” individuals or “oppressors” based on the student’s race, sex, self-proclaimed identities, or similar factors. Under DEI, even individuals living in poverty can be labeled the “oppressors” of individuals who have six-figure incomes and hold positions of power based on the individuals’ race and similar criteria.

DEI programs have been publicly cited, repeatedly, as a major contributor to growing anti-Semitism on college campuses since DEI programs often proclaim Jewish individuals to be part of an “oppressor” group.

Stitt’s order requires state agencies and institutions of higher education to initiate a review of DEI positions, departments, activities, procedures, and programs to eliminate and dismiss non-critical personnel.

Under the order, state agencies and institutions for higher education cannot utilize state funds, property, or resources to support DEI positions “to the extent they grant preferential treatment based on one person’s particular race, color, sex, ethnicity, or national origin,” or mandate participation in activities that endorse differential treatment of similar individuals based on race and similar factors.

During this month’s meeting of the State Board of Education, Walters said proposed OSDE rules will impose similar restrictions on K-12 schools in Oklahoma. He said the rules will target DEI staff positions, programs, and curricula in public schools.

“What we will be doing is ensuring that our districts are focused on student outcomes, focused on students as individuals,” Walters said.

Following concerns over the Western Heights school district recently hiring two drag queens to work on staff, Walters said the Oklahoma State Department of Education will also be submitting proposed updates to the state’s teacher code of conduct so it will now expressly forbid “sexual activity in public,” particularly if targeted towards children.

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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