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On Monday, a day before the nation would honor educators for National Teacher Appreciation Day, Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters compared teachers’ unions to “terrorist organizations.” A day later, he posted an article in which he was quoted saying the state will get rid of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

While the state boasts the 2023 national teacher of the year, Oklahoma is near last among U.S. states in virtually every education-related category. Both Republicans and Democrats have called on Walters to focus on improving education outcomes.

Propped up by school choice billionaires and emboldened by anti-CRT conservatives, Walters instead doubled down on his campaign-style rhetoric against diversity, equity and inclusion at a meeting with lawmakers at the state Capitol.

ryan walters fd moon oklahoma teacher appreciation day
Left: F.D. Moon, the first Black president of the Oklahoma City Board of Education. Right: Far-right State Superintendent Ryan Walters removed the portrait of Moon and other famous educators from the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (OKCPS / Associated Press)

Members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee had asked Walters to update them on what would normally be procedural: grant applications for federal funding, plans to improve education and teacher retention, and proof of his accusations that porn is rampant in school libraries.

Instead, Walters used the moment as his own personal stage to continue his attacks against teachers and the organizations that support them.

“I don’t negotiate with folks who would sabotage our kids,” Walters said, the Oklahoman reported. “That’s a terrorist organization in my book.”

Ironically, Walters continues to accuse the state’s teacher workforce of “liberal indoctrination” and encourages censorship of uncomfortable history even as he pushes to force the Christian bible into classrooms.

Does Supt. Ryan Walters care about Teacher Appreciation Day?

In a state that experienced two of the worst domestic terrorism attacks on U.S. soil–the Oklahoma City Bombing and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre–comparing people who educate children to people who bomb, burn and murdered children shocked even those who were accustomed to Walters’ rhetoric. The state’s largest teachers’ union, Oklahoma Education Association, worries his verbal attacks could lead to physical harm.

“In less radical times, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction calling the educators who serve in our public school classrooms ‘terrorists’ would be shocking,” OEA said in a statement. “However, this inflammatory and demonizing rhetoric continues to escalate in ways that endanger our educators and undermine public education.

Many of Walters talking points about liberal indoctrination and grooming are mirrored in far-right activist lawmakers from others states who have, like Oklahoma, banned books about race and sexuality, passed laws limiting discussions of race in the classroom, and censored the state’s only Black nonbinary and Muslim lawmaker.

While Walters defends his antics by claiming to fight for students, he’s been eerily silent about a high school coach in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, who was caught on tape forcing football students to physically maul each other like a scene straight out of the movie “Fight Club.”

Head football coach Jeff Myers and others face a $5 million lawsuit brought by former Kingfisher High School football players who accuse the school officials of forcing the teens to fist-fight until their opponent can no longer continue, KFOR reported. Myers is also accused of joining in on at least one of the “Ring” fights.

Can Oklahoma recall Ryan Walters?

Some have called for Walters to resign or face a recall election. Yet, the Oklahoma Constitution does not provide for an option to recall a statewide elected official. The only option to remove Walters would be for Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt to launch impeachment proceedings, an unlikely scenario.

On Monday, state House Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa), a descendant of Tulsa massacre survivors, called Walters’ rhetoric against teaching Black history “racially-tinged.”

“I just shared with him that I am a Democrat and a Christian, that his prayers don’t reach God’s ears faster than mine,” Goodwin told the Oklahoman. “There’s no way we’re going to advance any cause if he’s going to continue to diminish and attack in a way that is despicable.”

It’s unlikely the increased scrutiny has altered Walters’ actions. On Tuesday, the same day as Teacher Appreciation Day, he shared a Daily Signal article on Twitter in which he discussed his continued witch hunt.

“We’re not doing diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re not doing that here,” he said.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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