Controversial new rules affecting school library books and transgender students should be null and void under a binding opinion from the state attorney general.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved new rules last month without the Legislature giving the board the authority to do so, a spokesman for the state the attorney general’s office said.
Supt. of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said he disagrees with the attorney general’s opinion.
“We must keep pornographic material out of schools,” Supt. Walters said in a statement.
The opinion is the latest twist in a series of controversies surrounding the Oklahoma Department of Education since Supt. Walters took over in January.
State Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued the opinion, contending no state agency has the authority to create administrative rules without the state Legislature first enacting a related law.
Rather than building upon a specific law the Legislature had passed, Supt. Walters developed his own rules to ban sexualized content from school libraries and to require school staff to notify a child’s parents if the student expresses interest in changing gender identity, the opinion said.
Schools that failed to comply risked a downgrade of their accreditation status, the opinion continued.
Any rules a state agency creates without direction from the Legislature are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced, according to the opinion.
“Whether I agree or disagree with any particular rule in question is irrelevant if the board does not have the proper authority to issue those rules,” State Attorney General Drummond said in a statement.
“The Legislature is vested with policymaking authority. I will not allow any state agency, board or commission to usurp the Legislature’s rightful role, even if they have the best of intentions.”
The state attorney general issued a non-binding version of this opinion before the state Board of Education took a vote on the regulations.
Despite the attorney general appearing to warn such action might be unlawful, Supt. Walters said the legality of his rules weren’t in question.
“We’ve had great conversation with the attorney general’s office,” Supt. Walters said after the board approved the rules on March 23.
“We haven’t seen any issues in the rules we’ve currently proposed or have been working on.