Two graphic novels sitting on the shelves of Tulsa school libraries were the subject of a series of tweets on Wednesday from Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters accusing the district of “liberal indoctrination.” .
Walters tweeted screenshots — taken from conservative social media account”TikTok Libs– from a search on Follett Destiny – a library resource manager – from Memorial High School’s library catalog for “Gender Queer” and “Flamer” books. The screenshot shows that “Gender Queer” n was not available at Memorial but would have been available at Nathan Hale High School and Booker T. Washington High School; search results for “Flamer” show “1 of 1 available”.
In his tweet, which also included photos of the graphic novels, Walters said, “This is disgusting. This needs to stop! No more indoctrination of our children!”
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The Tulsa World searched the Follett Destiny Discover website and found no books listed as available at Booker T. Washington or Memorial high schools. However, “Gender Queer” was available at Nathan Hale High School.
Several hours after his initial post, Walters posted a video to Twitter accusing Tulsa Public Schools and Superintendent Deborah Gist of having a “woke” and “leftist” agenda and said he posted the photos of the novels on Facebook only for them to be deleted.
“It’s truly a sad day when awake Facebook has higher standards than Deborah Gist in Tulsa Public Schools,” Walters said. “It’s unbelievable that they allow this kind of inappropriate sexual material in their library. I’m not going to tolerate it.
“We have inappropriate sexual material targeted at children in Tulsa Public Schools, and this liberal indoctrination needs to stop.”
Following Walters’ tweets, Tulsa Public Schools released a statement indicating that the school system has nearly a million books on its library shelves that are purchased based on decisions “using national journals as well as suggestions from teachers and students.
The statement says the district has a process for reviewing books when concerns are raised, which includes a committee made up of students, parents, teachers and librarians who review the book.
“At this time, we are focused on opening schools during a time of teacher shortage crisis never seen before in Oklahoma,” the statement said. “It is deeply disappointing that Governor Stitt and Ryan Walters continue to dig into every opportunity they can find to attack Tulsa Public Schools rather than solving the crisis right in front of us.
“Our superintendent’s response to all of this is, knock it off. We need to focus on serving the children of Tulsa.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister released a statement calling on TPS to remove the books, calling them “inappropriate” and “pornography that does not belong in any public school library.”
His office said he had contacted TPS and was asking that the books be removed “immediately”.
“Parents have the right to check what books are available in their children’s schools and direct what their children have access to, so they can trust that their children are in a safe learning environment,” says Hofmeister’s statement.
“Gender Queer”, a memoir graphic novel by a non-binary author Maia Kobabe’s journey through the LGBTQ+ community has been called “the most challenging graphic novel of 2021” by the American Library Association.
A School Library Journal editorial review states that “Flamer” is suitable for grades 8 and up and describes it as the “the story of a teenager who must decide if he will force himself to fit into the mold of what he thinks is a ‘normal’ boy or if he can allow himself to live life on his own terms .”