In The Know: DA says charges not warranted in Nex Benedict school fight | Governor urges delay of casino gaming compacts | Chinese diplomat’s visit to Oklahoma raises concerns

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

‘Charges not warranted’ in fight at Owasso High School, Tulsa County DA says: Tulsa County’s top prosecutor said juvenile charges are not warranted in connection with a fight at Owasso High School involving a 16-year-old who died of suicide the following day. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa County prosecutor won’t pursue charges in Owasso teenager’s death [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • No charges to be filed in fight involving Nex Benedict, Tulsa DA says [The Oklahoman]
  • No Charges in Death of Nex Benedict, Prosecutor Says [New York Times]

A diplomat’s visits to Oklahoma highlight contacts between Chinese officials and community leaders accused of crimes: U.S. and foreign national security officials have alleged that the Chinese state maintains a tacit alliance with Chinese organized crime in the U.S. and across the world. Mobsters overtly support pro-Beijing causes and covertly provide services overseas: engaging in political influence work, moving illicit funds offshore for the Chinese elite and helping persecute dissidents, according to Western officials, court cases and human rights groups. Chinese officials reciprocate by tolerating and sometimes supporting their illicit activities, according to those sources. [The Frontier & ProPublica]

  • A marijuana boom led her to Oklahoma. Then anti-drug agents seized her money and raided her home [The Frontier]

State Government News

Stitt to Horse Racing Commission: Oppose 2034 auto-renewal of casino gaming compacts: Frustrated by how 2019 licensure actions unfolded and were ruled to have automatically renewed the state’s Model Tribal Gaming Compact, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked the Horse Racing Commission to pass a resolution heading off similar action a decade down the road. [NonDoc]

  • Stitt attempts to control future Oklahoma tribal gaming compact renewals [Oklahoma Voice]

State medical group says bill letting nurses prescribe will backfire, urges Stitt to veto: The Oklahoma State Medical Association released a statement Wednesday urging Gov. Kevin Stitt to veto a bill that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe drugs in the state. OSMA’s president, Dr. Diane Heaton, said Senate Bill 458 would decrease the quality of patient care in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

‘They deserve a chance to be heard’: Lawmakers advance Oklahoma Survivors’ Act: At the midpoint of this year’s legislative session, Oklahoma legislators advanced a bill that would introduce sentencing reform to criminalized survivors of domestic abuse. Hannah France spoke with Oklahoma Appleseed attorney Leslie Briggs about the Oklahoma Survivors’ Act. [KGOU]

Legislature approves bill to bundle Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses, increase fees: A bill to streamline Oklahoma’s hunting and fishing licenses is headed to the governor’s desk after a multiyear journey through the legislature. The measure also hikes hunting license fees for the first time in two decades. [KGOU]

LGBTQ+ advocacy group opens website, begins campaign to remove Ryan Walters from office: An advocacy group known as the Human Rights Campaign has begun a campaign it’s calling “Remove Ryan Walters,” an effort it said will involve the creation of a website opposing the state schools superintendent from office, as well as a plan for action that will include protests at the Capitol next week. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma joins 14 other states and Department of Justice in suing Apple for smartphone monopoly: Oklahoma on Thursday joined the Department of Justice, 14 other states and Washington D.C. in filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for allegedly monopolizing smartphone markets. [Oklahoma Voice]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Superintendent Ryan Walters, Catholic charter school, Oklahoma County jail and more (audio):  The panel discusses a report showing State Superintendent Ryan Walters used taxpayer dollars to pay a public relations firm to promote him on the national stage, a Catholic charter school moving forward with applications to open this fall despite facing legal challenges and more. [KOSU]

Opinion: Oklahoma legislators might repeat Alabama’s mistake. A new bill would block access to IVF: The Oklahoma Legislature recently introduced House Bill 3013, which would ban the use of certain standard medications and assigns the rights of legal personhood “from the moment of conception.” In short, the Legislature wants to create restrictions that will jeopardize access to in vitro fertilization treatment for Oklahoma families experiencing infertility and undermine the ability of physicians like me to provide standard care to our patients. [Dr. Dana Stone / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Congress needs to address public safety crisis on tribal reservations, leaders say: Officials representing tribes in Oklahoma and 14 other states said Wednesday that inadequate funding has hamstrung their criminal justice systems, leaving them unable to fully address the opioid crisis. Many leaders also called on Congress to restore the power of tribal courts over all people suspected of dealing drugs and committing other crimes on reservations, not just those who are Native. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma medical advocacy group opposes ‘ethics defense’ bill allowing opt-outs: The Oklahoma State Medical Association is opposing House Bill 3214 that would allow people with jobs in health care to opt out of medical procedures or other tasks they find morally objectionable. [Tulsa World]

Links, Inc. Tulsa provides Black families health resources: Along with 250 Links, Inc. chapters across the country, Tulsa hosted a Black Family Wellness Expo. It was the Links organization’s second year hosting the event, but a first for the Chapter. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Criminal Justice News

The Frontier is suing Oklahoma County jail officials for records: The Frontier is suing the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority for withholding records related to medical care at the Oklahoma County jail. The Frontier alleges Oklahoma County jail officials have unlawfully withheld the records in violation of the Oklahoma Open Records Act. [The Frontier]

Opinion: Prosecutors put Brenda Andrew’s gender on trial. Now, will Oklahoma execute her?: The prosecutors weaponized gender stereotypes to compare Brenda Andrew to “normal” women, asking one witness what a “good mother” would do and whether Andrew failed in this regard. [Miriam Aroni Krinsky / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Why a lawsuit against Ryan Walters over student pronouns is headed back to state court: A lawsuit filed against state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters and the Oklahoma State Board of Education on behalf of a Moore Public Schools student who wanted to change their pronouns in school records is moving back to state court. [The Oklahoman]

Freedom 2 Learn Oklahoma Mobilizes Community Action and Federal Intervention: Freedom 2 Learn Oklahoma, a group of concerned public school parents, educators, students and advocates from across our state, has announced a community-led action to protect the civil rights of all Oklahoma students. On Monday, March 25th, Freedom 2 Learn Oklahoma will host a community listening session at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education Watch: Catholic Charter School May Not Survive Legal Challenges. It’s Enrolling Students Anyway: A legal effort to block the nation’s first religious charter school is scheduled for arguments April 2 in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. But that hasn’t stopped the school from enrolling students. The St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School is accepting applications through the end of March for the 2024-25 school year, despite the possibility it will not overcome legal challenges. About 200 students have applied to attend so far. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Around 200 students enroll in Catholic virtual charter school amid legal battle [KOCO]

Community News

‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’: controversial legislation, Enid City Council race, wildfires (audio): This episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma features stories on a controversial bill in the state legislature, a heated city council race in Enid, wildfires in Western Oklahoma, and more. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Ranks 5th in the Nation for Most Hostile LGBTQ Policies: The Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think-tank, released a comprehensive analysis detailing Oklahoma’s national standing in terms of LGBTQ acceptance and policy. Overall, the state scored 1.5 out of 21.5 possible points for sexual orientation policy, ranking 5th for most hostile towards LGBTQ+ people. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum: Tulsa is a welcoming city, not to be confused with a sanctuary city: As it has become clear that immigration will be a wedge issue in this year’s federal elections, misinformation about Tulsa is distracting from the progress our city has made. Immigration is an important debate, and in the midst of that national debate we continue working to make Tulsa the best it can be for immigrants who leave their homeland to seek opportunity in our city. This has led people in some instances to assume the worst about what we’re doing. In other instances, some blatantly lie about it. [Mayor G.T. Bynum / Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Four water systems in Oklahoma City metro area report toxic pollutants, ‘forever chemicals’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Enid invests $4M in site-ready property to lure new industry [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Please ask yourself how you would want your immigrant ancestors (if you have them) to be treated before assuming the worst about similarly courageous people who are seeking the same opportunities that you have benefited from as an American.”

-Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, writing in an opinion piece about falsehoods surrounding Tulsa’s recognition as the first “Welcoming City” in Oklahoma. This designation honors the work and commitment to including and welcome immigrants into the community. [Mayor G.T. Bynum / Tulsa World]   

Number of the Day


Percentage decrease in larcenies nationwide in 2023 compared to 2022. [Council on Criminal Justice]

Policy Note

‘Tough-on-crime’ policies are back in some places that had reimagined criminal justice: Policymakers are responding to public concerns over rising crime rates and heightened fear and anger due to a perceived surge in offenses such as carjackings and retail theft. To some criminal justice experts, the legislative actions represent more of a partial rollback of progressive criminal justice changes rather than a complete return to past punitive policies. [Stateline]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.