In The Know: Communities await answers after death of nonbinary Owasso student | Lawmakers considering 50+ bills targeting LGBTQ+ issues | Lawmakers move to further restrict sex ed | More childcare needed

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

Owasso awaits answers in death of nonbinary student as officials warn of misinformation: A community in the Tulsa area is waiting to learn more details in the death of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died Feb. 8. The student’s mother said the family is expecting a report from the medical examiner to learn more about how her child Nex Benedict died. In a short interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Sue Benedict said that Nex collapsed at home after seeking medical attention for injuries sustained in a fight at school on Feb. 7, but that she is not certain yet how much that altercation contributed to Nex’s death. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Oklahoma legislature considering over 50 bills targeting LGBTQ+ issues. What do they say?: From bans on gender-affirming health care to penalizing public school employees for asking a student their pronouns, here’s a breakdown of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills in this legislative session. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma panel passes judicial age-limit bill: A Senate panel on Tuesday passed a bill that could give Gov. Kevin Stitt five appointees on the nine-member Oklahoma Supreme Court. Senate Bill 1672, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, would require appellate and district court judges to retire when they turn 75. [Oklahoma Voice]

Sex education opt-in legislation narrowly advances out of Oklahoma House committee: An Oklahoma House committee narrowly advanced a measure that would only allow a student to receive sexual education if their parents opt in. House Bill 3120, by Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole, also removes a requirement that students be taught about consent during sexual encounters. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma bill would shift sex education to opt-in, limit teaching HIV/AIDS or contraception [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Why would we not want anyone to understand consent?’: Oklahoma lawmakers debate sex ed [KOKH]
  • Sex ed would become a tougher topic with proposed law [Tulsa World]

Judge Sides With Defendant in Lawmakers’ Open Records Lawsuit: State Reps. Justin Humphrey and Kevin McDugle did not personally request communication records from District 06 District Attorney Jason Hicks and therefore are not entitled to relief under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, Stephens County District Judge Brent Russell ruled on Friday. [Oklahoma Watch]

Long Story Short: Bill Would Ban Ranked Choice Voting in Oklahoma (Audio): Keaton Ross reports on a bill that would ban ranked choice voting throughout Oklahoma, Jennifer Palmer discusses Gov. Kevin Stitt’s second failed attempt to sue ClassWallet, and Paul Monies explains how much money the Legislature has to spend this year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Voting and Election News

Bill preventing foreign contributions to ballot initiatives, now going to Ethics Commission: Last fall, state Rep. Mickey Dollens held an interim hearing on Oklahoma’s initiative and referendum process. Dollens said he was worried that other lawmakers would make the process more difficult. This year, Dollens’ filed several measures that would expand access and, he said, better protect the process. [The Oklahoman]

Proposal changing initiative petition process advances in Oklahoma House committee: Proposals advanced Tuesday in the House Rules Committee for stricter requirements on initiative petitions, reforming the clemency recommendation process for death row inmates and a new lottery game benefiting veterans in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Would this Oklahoma bill actually ban IUDs, Plan B? What we know about HB 3216: Authored by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, the bill would allow lawsuits for those who help women obtain abortions and would allow the state to identify women who obtain them. It also targets contraceptives that induce an abortion or prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma bill that would require schools to provide free menstrual products moves forward: Authored by Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, HB 3329 would require public and charter schools with 6th through 12th grades to provide free menstrual products in female, gender-neutral and standalone handicapped bathrooms, as well as a neutral location, like a nurse’s office. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Sue Ann Arnall’s resignation leaves lingering questions about jail funding problems: It is too soon to gauge what the fallout from Monday’s resignation of Sue Ann Arnall from Oklahoma County’s Criminal Justice Authority will be on efforts to reform Oklahoma County’s jail. But Arnall’s decision to leave the trust that runs the jail delivers a gut punch to reform supporters who might question how involved she will remain in financially supporting many of those efforts. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Impending Michelin closure inspires tax credit bill in Oklahoma: A state representative hopes a bill that would incentivize manufacturers to hire laid off manufacturing employees will keep skilled workers in the state if it were to become law. [Journal Record]

Does Oklahoma have some of the lowest wages in the nation? (Fact Brief): Oklahoma is ranked 10th lowest in average income and eighth lowest in median income, according to analysis of the latest 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The state was found to have an average income of $54,998, and a median of $55,826. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

Forbes released Best Midsize Employers for 2024. See which Oklahoma companies made the list: Forbes released its list of America’s Best Midsize Employers for 2024, after a survey of workers at U.S. companies with 1,000 to 5,000 workers. The results shone a light on which companies were most favorable to those who work for them. [The Oklahoman]

Report shows Oklahoma has fewer producers, but some counties had an increase of farmers and ranchers: The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture shows overall Oklahoma has fewer farmers and ranchers, but not every county saw a decrease in producers. [KOSU]

Education News

Facing Walters’ accreditation threat, Edmond Public Schools asks OK Supreme Court to block OSDE book rules: Facing a purported threat to the accreditation status of Edmond Public Schools, the district’s Board of Education voted unanimously at a special meeting today to file a petition asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to determine if standards enacted by the State Department of Education last year prohibiting broadly defined “pornography” and “sexualized content” in library books are valid under state law. Attorney General Gentner Drummond has already issued a non-binding opinion saying the blanket authority cited to create the controversial agency rules was inapplicable, but EPS’ filing could force a court to adjudicate the question. [NonDoc]

  • Edmond Public Schools challenges Oklahoma State Department of Education’s attempted book ban [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Edmond School District Files Court Petition Against OSDE Amid Potential Accreditation Demotion [News 9]

Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments in Catholic virtual charter school case on April 2: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday set a date to hear oral arguments in state Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s lawsuit to stop the creation of what would be the nation’s first public religious charter school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Charter School. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers push to load school lunch trays with produce from local farms: Sen. Jessica Garvin’s Senate Bill 1473 would provide grants to help farmers grow more fresh produce, and encourage local school districts to buy it from them. [KGOU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Planned downtown Edmond brewery faces delays, questions on city’s Request for Qualifications process [NonDoc]
  • If OKC’s new NBA arena goes over budget, who foots the bill? [The Oklahoman]
  • Hollywood mogul bringing movie business to Norman [Journal Record]
  • Tulsa LGBTQ+ center optimistic about future after outpouring of donations [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“This happened in a red state where all of these laws and these leaders are saying terrible things about queer people and kids. Can we not draw a line and acknowledge that stuff like this happens because of that?”

-Kylan Durant, president of the Oklahoma Pride Alliance, saying the targeting of gender identity and hateful rhetoric by state elected officials are relevant issues in the death of a nonbinary student following a fight at Owasso High School.  [Washington Post]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s population that lives in an area considered a child care desert where families don’t have ready access to childcare. This represents 34 of 77 counties. [Oklahoma Human Services]

Policy Note

With Arrival of Child Care Cliff, Some States Have Stepped in to Save the Sector:  As it stands today, there remains a big disconnect between what families can pay and the resources providers need to provide high-quality care, leading to a shortage of child care supply in practically every community. The stabilization funds not only kept businesses open, but also demonstrated what is possible when the math adds up because child care is being treated like the essential infrastructure that it is. Children can count on receiving consistent care, providers are less stressed and have an easier time recruiting and retaining early educators, early educators are able to pay their bills and, in some cases, even save for the future. [The Century Foundation]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.