Mustang Public Schools Superintendent Charles Bradley has written a letter of appeal to the Oklahoma State Board of Education asking them to reconsider their recent downgrade of the district’s accreditation.
“When I learned that Mustang was being discussed in an open meeting of the state board, I was surprised and quickly turned on the live stream only to hear the vote that Mustang Public Schools would be Accredited with Warning for the 2022-23 school year,” Bradley said in the letter. “To say I was in shock would be an understatement.”
The letter — dated Aug. 9, released publicly today and embedded below — requested “due process” by allowing Bradley to appeal Mustang’s case either at the state board’s next meeting on Aug. 25 or in a separate special meeting.
“We have received the letter and the request is under review,” said Oklahoma State Department of Education general counsel Brad Clark.
On July 28, the state board voted 4-2 to lower Tulsa Public Schools’ and MPS’ accreditations to “accredited with warning” after receiving and reviewing complaints alleging that each school district violated the provisions of HB 1775. In Mustang, the complaint stemmed from a student activity highlighting “different experiences in life.”
The state board approved administrative rules in March for how to handle HB 1775, which banned teaching certain concepts about race and gender in Oklahoma public schools. According to those rules, Clark recommended TPS and MPS be “accredited with deficiency,” one step higher than “accredited with warning.” The board, however, took the more severe step at its July meeting.
The MPS student activity happened in January, and the state board’s July vote apparently took Bradley and other administrators by surprise, as they believed they had handled the complaint internally.
“Our investigation initially (into the incident) was not, ‘Oh, it’s a HB 1775 complaint,'” said Kirk Wilson, MPS director of communications, after Monday night’s meeting of the Mustang Public Schools Board. “It was a parent saying, ‘Hey this happened, is this right?’ And we [investigated and said] ‘No, that’s not right, that shouldn’t be happening.’ [We] took care of business, and then later 1775 things started coming out.”
Bradley, the MPS superintendent, said his district handled the issue “to the complainant’s satisfaction within a matter of days.”
“This was a singular isolated incident by a single employee, out of over 1,600 employees, which has now led to severe consequences for an entire district of over 13,000 students,” Bradley wrote in his Aug. 9 letter. “I fail to see any incentive for a school district to investigate concerns and remedy them when this is the outcome.”
In addition to seeking to appeal the state board’s vote because he “felt there were decisions being made without facts being present,” Bradley suggested during Monday’s MPS board meeting that the district could take legal action in response to the state board “increasing our punishment that appears to violate their own guidelines.” He also suggested the state board may have violated the state’s Open Meetings Act “regarding knowing we were even on the agenda” for the board’s July 28 meeting.
The other path the district has to move forward, Bradley said, would involve the Oklahoma Legislature.
“Talking with all of our local legislators, they are very sympathetic to what has happened to Mustang,” Bradley said during Monday’s meeting. “And they are very eager to know what can they do during the session so that school districts like Mustang who do everything right don’t end up getting punished when that was not the intent of the law.”
Bradley did not say which legislators he had talked to, but Mustang is mostly located in House District 47, represented by Rep. Brian Hill (R-Mustang), and in Senate Districts 23 and 45, held by Sen. Lonnie Paxton (R-Tuttle) and Sen. Paul Rosino (R-OKC).
As Mustang students prepare to go back to school Thursday, Wilson said parents continue to have confusion about the situation.
“It’s just worry and confusion,” Wilson said.
At the end of his Aug. 9 letter, Bradley said the student activity that sparked the complaint might not have even violated the law and that he believes the State Board of Education should vacate its decision to restore MPS to “fully accredited with no deficiencies.”
“Our amazing staff and our wonderful students and families deserve the chance to be heard, and I will gladly represent them either at a special board meeting or at the next regular meeting of the board,” Bradley concluded.