State Education Department under fire for ‘hiding memo’ warning of illegal activity

The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has stripped its website of a memo issued by the state attorney general, which warns that the agency has acted illegally in its administration of a state program for children with special needs.

An OSDE spokesperson said the document is shielded from public view by attorney-client privilege.

The Lindsey Nicole Henry (LNH) Scholarships for Students with Disabilities program provides scholarships to students with special needs and foster children, allowing them to attend private schools. The LNH law requires that participating private schools comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of a section of federal law that bars discrimination “on the ground of race, color, or national origin.” Those are the only three categories listed.

However, under the leadership of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, the OSDE drafted new regulations in 2019 that expanded that list to cover nine categories, including “religion” and “sexual orientation.” The additions were made nine years after the program was created.

As a result of those additions, the State Board of Education has not approved the application of Christian Heritage Academy to serve LNH students with one board member explicitly saying a private school cannot require its staff to be “mature Christian teachers” and still participate in the LNH program under the agency’s new regulations.

At the board’s November meeting, the group instead requested a formal opinion from the office of the attorney general on the legality of its regulations.

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