A message from Dr. Grunewald

Edmond Families,

I am writing to make you aware of a legal case that the district will be involved in. While the district does not typically comment on any pending litigation, I feel it is important that you hear directly from me about this case and what led us to this point.

I also want to assure you that no matter where this case leads, it will not distract us from our mission of providing a high quality education for all of our nearly 26,000 Edmond students each and every day.

Today at a Special Meeting, our Board of Education voted unanimously to file a petition asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to determine if rules adopted and enforced by the State Board of Education, State Department of Education, and State Superintendent Ryan Walters are valid under Oklahoma law. This action is in response to correspondence that EPS received last month regarding two books in our high school libraries. In the letter, the State Department of Education ordered the district to remove those books from the libraries, which is not something within their authority to do. If we do not remove the books from our libraries, the State Department of Education is threatening to downgrade the district’s accreditation. By law, our district must be accredited, so you can see why accreditation is a critical asset worth protecting. 

Since 1997, EPS has had a clear policy (#3600) for the review of books in our school libraries, a policy we have followed consistently for over 25 years. If you would like to read that policy, it is available at this link. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have also found that local school boards and superintendents may not unilaterally remove materials from public school libraries without following the policy of their district. Our legal counsel has advised us that following the directive from the State Department of Education to unilaterally remove the books could violate those rulings and our existing EPS policy. We contend it is therefore unlawful for us to follow the State Department’s directive to remove the books absent clarification from those tasked with interpreting Oklahoma law, its Supreme Court.

We also firmly believe in local control for School Boards in Oklahoma and standing up for the laws passed by the State Legislature that guarantee that control. Simply put, we contend that this is a case of overreach where the State Department of Education has wrongly removed our locally elected School Board from making decisions regarding education and materials inside of our district. I want to make clear that today’s action is not about any individual book or books. It is about the fundamental principle that these issues are for our school board and our community to decide – not the State Department of Education. Any parent may petition for the review of library materials under longstanding district policy, and that will not change regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.

We do not want to be in this position and our school board members did not take this step lightly. Unfortunately, the State Department of Education’s action has forced us to take this legal action.

You will likely hear quite a bit about this case in the news and on social media in the coming days and weeks, some of which will likely be taken out of context. Namely, you may hear that the books we have been ordered to remove constitute pornography. I want to be clear that, although the district did not file this action to argue the merits of any particular book, Edmond Public Schools has never included pornography in any of its library collections. Please know our Board Members and I have the interests of our entire district at heart and will continue to fight to protect the rights of Edmond students, parents and staff members. 

I hope you will watch this short video message explaining more about today’s action: https://youtu.be/cXTshhEupjI.

Thank you,

Dr. Angela Grunewald