LGBTQ Equality

Ryan Walters cares more about himself than Oklahoma’s kids

  Rob Boston

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, clearly craves the limelight. According to recent reports, Walters spent $30,000 in taxpayer money to hire a public relations firm in Washington, D.C., to book him on national news talk shows.

Walters has been getting attention lately – but perhaps not the kind he seeks. In the wake of the tragic suicide of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student at Owasso High School who died a day after they were beaten by fellow students after months of bullying, people are asking pointed questions about how Walters’ constant stream of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and mean-spirited policies might have contributed to Benedict’s death.

A local official speaks the truth

Last month, Sean Cummings, vice mayor of The Village, a small community near Oklahoma City, attended a meeting of the Oklahoma Board of Education and confronted Walters directly.

“You emboldened these three girls yourself,” Cummings said. “The blood is on you guys.”

Cummings added, “It’s already difficult to be in high school. It’s very difficult to be different, but when somebody is attacked for being different, you are liable.”

Holding Walters accountable

Walters didn’t reply, but some legislators in Oklahoma are starting to toy with the idea of reining him in.

Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall (R-Atoka) said he isn’t happy to see Walters spending taxpayer money on a self-promotion campaign and vowed to pursue legislation to put limits on Walters’ spending, reported KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.

“Education – everyone is a stakeholder in education,” McCall told reporters earlier this week. “We should not be expending state monies, taxpayer dollars, for personal promotion.”

KFOR reported, “Walters spent thousands in taxpayer dollars on travel expenses. That included expenses for attending a movie premiere and recording a podcast in Texas, attending a Moms for Liberty conference in Pennsylvania, and traveling to Washington D.C to meet with a guest-booker for Fox News.”

A national culture warrior?

What is Walters’ endgame? Perhaps he’s interested in riding the lucrative right-wing gravy train like Sarah Palin, who abandoned the governorship of Alaska to become a highly compensated culture warrior. Or perhaps he has his eye on some higher office or a slot in a possible second Donald Trump administration. Whatever his goals are, Oklahomans – and indeed all Americans – should be alarmed that Walters is willing to toss aside the rights of transgender/nonbinary kids to reach them.

Cutting off Walters’ access to the taxpayer spigot would be a good start. But a better solution would be to acknowledge that Walters has failed not just Nex Benedict but all of Oklahoma’s public school students and oust him from office. If you haven’t already, sign our petition urging Oklahoma lawmakers to do just that.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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