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Parents Seek To Oust Tulsa-Area School Board Members

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Parents listen to Tulsa school board members in a recent meeting about the special education bill. Parents listen to Tulsa school board members in a recent meeting about the special education bill.
The Broken Arrow School board meets Monday, January 24, 2011 to discuss House Bill 3393. The Broken Arrow School board meets Monday, January 24, 2011 to discuss House Bill 3393.
Farrell spoke during a recent school board meeting in Owasso. Farrell spoke during a recent school board meeting in Owasso.
Dr. Cathy Burden, superintendent of Union Public Schools. Dr. Cathy Burden, superintendent of Union Public Schools.

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma -- A group of parents is trying to kick several members of the Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Tulsa school boards out of office over the controversial special education scholarship law.

More than a dozen parents filed writs of ouster with the state attorney general's office on Tuesday.

The notices claim the board members are guilty of willful misconduct for their votes to disobey House Bill 3393, or the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship law. That's the law that would use public money to pay private school tuition for special education students.

Complaining parents asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt to investigate their claims and "if reasonable cause is found" that he begin "proceedings to oust" the listed board members.

The full boards for Union, Jenks and Broken Arrow are listed. Only Gary Percefull, Lana Turner-Addison, Brian Hunt and Ruth Ann Fate are listed from the Tulsa school board.

Examples of the writs of ouster by two of the parents

Loretta Farrell, one of the parents who filed a writ of ouster, is used to fighting for her son. Her 11-year-old has Asberger's and she said getting his needs met has been a constant struggle.

"We think the public schools are being a big bully. They're being a big bully," she said. "Are they interested in the kids? No! They are not interested in the well being of the kids in the schools. They just want their territory, their turf."

Six school districts, including Broken Arrow, Union, Jenks, Bixby, Owasso, and Liberty originally voted to defy House Bill 3393 on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional. Tulsa's School Board voted to accept the six applications it had received, but no more.

TPS voted to reopen the application process last week, after the author of the Lindsey Nicole Henry law agreed to tweak the bill to address the district's concerns. Owasso and Bixby also reversed their positions.

Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Liberty agreed to comply with HB 3393 earlier this week, after they were threatened with legal action by the Attorney General Pruitt. But those four school districts are suing the AG over the special education scholarship law to force a judge to rule on its constitutionality.

1/25/2011 Related Story: State Superintendent Criticizes Decision By Four Tulsa-Area Schools To Sue Over House Bill 3393

"Saving them from a law that is inappropriate and not good for students and one that would be much more costly than this legal battle will be in the long run," Dr Cathy Burden, Union Schools Superintendent, said.

"We're incensed that they want to spend our tax dollars to do that," Farrell said.  "Why are they allowed to break the law and not have any consequences?"

Even though all the boards are now in compliance, Farrell believes they should still answer for their actions. She wants to launch a pre-emptive strike against the school districts' legal challenge.

"I'm hoping that they will not spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars that's needed in the public schools and give it to Mr. Doug Mann and the law firm to represent them in a lawsuit to sue the state," she said.

The paperwork was filed with the state attorney general. His office says he's investigating the claims.

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