Oklahoma attorney general wants Legislature to pass bathroom bill | Govt-and-politics

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Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, state Superintendent of Public Instruction and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joy Hofmeister and 16 members of the Legislature exchanged barbs on Wednesday about school restrooms.

At issue is a years-old — and until recently noncontroversial — Stillwater Public Schools policy concerning transgender bathroom use. The matter was first raised by Oklahoma Education Secretary and Republican state superintendent candidate Ryan Walters, who expressed outrage that students are allowed to use whichever facility matches their gender identification.

School officials said recently no students have ever complained about the policy, which has been in place at least five years.

Political leaders, especially Republicans, have been quick to vent their outrage, however.

On Thursday, state Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, said he and 15 other lawmakers had written O’Connor asking him to render an opinion in the matter.

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A few hours later, O’Connor responded, ping-ponging responsibility back to the Legislature and attacking Hofmeister, a former Republican who changed parties as a result of ongoing fights with Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Stitt appointed both Walters and O’Connor, and he and Hofmeister are likely general election opponents.

On Wednesday, Hofmeister accused O’Connor of “misleading” the public and pointed out that she, too, in her capacity as state superintendent, had asked O’Connor for clarification on the matter.

For good measure, ACLU Oklahoma blasted everyone involved and said, “There is no data of any kind to support the claim that allowing students to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity undermines the safety of students.”

A chief argument against policies such as Stillwater’s is that it leaves school girls vulnerable to attack from biological males. While a few such cases have been reported nationally, experts say transgender youth are much more likely to be attacked in school restrooms than to attack someone else.

“My colleagues and I have received numerous calls asking for us to take action on this issue,” Moore said in a press release. “I think it is important that Attorney General O’Connor steps in and issues an official opinion making clear exactly what the law says about the (Stillwater) school board’s actions.”

In his press release, O’Connor said, “Today, we sent Rep. Moore a letter reiterating that basing restrooms on biology is not against the law, and encouraging Rep. Moore while still in session to work toward passing legislation clarifying explicitly that policies like Stillwater schools are prohibited in Oklahoma.”

O’Connor takes several shots at Hofmeister — and the Biden administration — in his written statement, claiming her department had inappropriately advised SPS and possibly others.

Hofmeister replied that O’Connor has a “responsibility” to “issue a binding formal opinion.”

Stillwater Public Schools maintain that the policy was adopted during the Obama administration in accordance with guidance from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, which Hofmeister heads.

That guidance cited court decisions and Obama administration initiatives favoring policies in line with the one adopted by SPS.

“To be clear, neither the department nor I have told Stillwater Public Schools or any other district how they must approach the issue of transgender individuals’ use of restroom facilities,” Hofmeister said Wednesday.

“While no legal precedent on this topic currently exists in Oklahoma, other appellate courts around the nation have largely weighed in with rulings that appear to support the current policy of Stillwater Public Schools,” said Hofmeister. “Clarity is important here – and it is wholly appropriate that the Attorney General issue a binding formal opinion when requested to do so by an elected official.”

Video: Transgender Day of Visibility

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