GLAAD calls for removal of Oklahoma’s top education official in new ad following death of Nex Benedict

The LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD is launching a new multimedia ad campaign calling for the removal of Oklahoma’s top education official, whose views and policies on LGBTQ issues have come under heavy scrutiny since the death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict last month.

The 30-second spot will air on digital and streaming platforms in Oklahoma starting Tuesday and running for several weeks, a spokesperson for the group told The Hill. The five-figure ad buy rebukes Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters for embracing anti-LGBTQ views and backing education policies that target transgender students.

“Ryan Walters is in it for himself and for radical national extremists — not for Oklahoma’s children or families,” the ad says. It encourages voters to press their state representatives to remove Walters from his position, to which he was elected in 2022.

Oklahoma’s constitution grants authority to the state House — where Republicans hold a large majority — to begin impeachment proceedings against elected officials.

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R) in September dismissed previous calls from Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Walters over alleged mismanagement of state education department funds and a “consistent pattern of inflammatory language” aimed at public school teachers.

Democrats in an Aug. 29 request to McCall referenced a string of bomb threats reported by a Tulsa-area school district after Walters shared a viral video of one of the district’s librarians on X, formerly Twitter.

McCall in September said he would not approve an investigation unless Walters is accused of a crime. House Democrats renewed their call for Walters’s impeachment in December, claiming the situation had “worsened.”

Walters as superintendent has championed conservative causes and railed against the acceptance and inclusion of transgender students in Oklahoma schools. Appearing in a state education department video in August, he described transgender students as a danger to their classmates and claimed “radical gender theory” is running rampant in schools.

Walters at a January State Board of Education meeting said gender fluidity is “the most radical concept we’ve ever come across in K-12 education,” and last month accused the Biden administration of weaponizing the Education Department to “push gender ideology on kids.”

More than 350 LGBTQ and civil rights organizations in February called for Walters’s removal, citing his anti-LGBTQ views and his appointment of Chaya Raichik, the conservative activist behind Libs of TikTok, to a state library advisory board. Raichik’s posts often target LGBTQ people.

Walters, the groups wrote in a letter to McCall and Oklahoma House leadership, is responsible “for fostering a culture of violence and hate” against Oklahoma’s Two Spirit, transgender and gender non-conforming community that contributed to the death of Benedict, a high school sophomore at Owasso High School in Owasso.

Sue Benedict — Benedict’s grandmother whom they called mom — told The Independent in February that Benedict “did not see themselves as male or female. Nex saw themselves right down the middle.”

Friends of Benedict during a vigil in Owasso last month said they were transgender and primarily went by he/him pronouns at school but also used they/them pronouns.

LGBTQ advocacy groups have described Benedict, who was of Choctaw Nation ancestry, as identifying under the Two-Spirit, transgender and gender non-conforming umbrella.

Benedict had been bullied at school since at least the beginning of last year, Sue Benedict told The Independent. They died one day after they were involved in a physical altercation in the girls’ bathroom, according to the school district and local authorities. The fight has not been ruled out as a contributing factor to their death.

“Access to the safety to thrive in school has never been too much to ask. Our schools should be a safe place for every student to have their dignity and autonomy respected, a safe place for them to learn,” Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said Tuesday in a statement issued by GLAAD.

“Nex Benedict deserved that safety, but instead they experienced a year of being bullied by fellow students, as bullying that targeted their identity was also pushed in policy and rhetoric from the head of Oklahoma’s State Department of Education,” McAfee said.

Responding to GLAAD’s ad calling for Walters’s removal, Dan Isett, a spokesperson for Walters, said he “will never give in to the out-of-state woke mob.”

The U.S. Department of Education earlier this month launched an investigation into Benedict’s school district, Owasso Public Schools, at the request of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group.

The Human Rights Campaign has called for a separate investigation into Walters and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

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