© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules in favor of Edmond Public Schools in library book dispute

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edmond Public Schools on Tuesday, agreeing with the district that local school boards, not state officials, have the power to decide which books to include in school libraries.
Nuria Martinez-Keel
/
Oklahoma Voice
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edmond Public Schools on Tuesday, agreeing with the district that local school boards, not state officials, have the power to decide which books to include in school libraries.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Edmond Public Schools that the state Department of Education overstepped its bounds by attempting to force the district to remove two books from its library shelves.

In a decision released Tuesday, all nine justices agreed that a district’s local school board, not the state agency nor the Oklahoma State Board of Education, has the power to decide which books to include in school libraries.

The Education Department demanded in a Jan. 19 letter that the Edmond district remove “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls from its high school libraries because the books contain sexual content. The agency threatened a potential downgrade to Edmond’s accreditation status if it didn’t comply.

On Feb. 20, Edmond asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. The Court issued an order blocking the state Education Department from taking any further enforcement action against the district.

Edmond schools said it is grateful for the Court’s decision.

“We appreciate their willingness to take the case and their decision today,” the district said in a statement. “Today’s decision protects our locally elected school board’s role in creating policies that determine how library materials are selected and reviewed.”

State law explicitly gives the responsibility of maintaining school libraries to local school boards, according to the Court’s opinion, which Justice James E. Edmondson wrote.

Although the state Education Department has general authority to oversee public schools, it doesn’t have the power to overrule a local board decision on library books, Edmondson stated.

The Education Department relied on these general powers when it established administrative rules prohibiting school libraries from having books that contain pornographic material or sexualized content.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued a binding opinion that these rules are invalid because they lack statutory authority, but Gov. Kevin Stitt approved them and the agency pressed on with enforcing them anyway.

The Court decided the Education Department attempted “unauthorized quasi-judicial authority” when trying to supersede a local district’s decision on library content.

The agency also created a Library Media Review Committee to check if any books violate its library content rules. The agency has so far refused to disclose the names of any of the committee members except for one — far-right conservative social media personality Chaya Raichik, who runs the controversial account Libs of TikTok.

The committee deemed “The Kite Runner” and “The Glass Castle,” both acclaimed bestsellers, to be “pornographic” and to include “sexualized content.” The books both reference incidents of child sexual abuse.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters accused Edmond schools of choosing to “peddle porn” by keeping the two books in its high school libraries.

“Although we are disappointed the Court issued this decision, it was made on very narrow grounds,” Walters said in a statement Tuesday evening. “The Court did not sign on to any of the claims made by the districts that would have affected the State Board of Education’s broad authority over school districts or the Governor’s ability to approve our administrative rules.”


Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Nuria Martinez-Keel covers education for Oklahoma Voice. She worked in newspapers for six years, more than four of which she spent at The Oklahoman covering education and courts. Nuria is an Oklahoma State University graduate.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.
Related Content