350+ LGBTQ+ Rights Groups Are Calling for Oklahoma’s School Superintendent to Be Removed

More than 350 public figures and LGBTQ+ rights groups are calling for the Oklahoma legislature to remove Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters from office, accusing him of “fostering a culture of violence” in an open letter published by GLAAD on Wednesday.

The letter comes on the heels of the death of Nex Benedict in Oklahoma earlier this month, which the signatories called a “terrible loss” in the LGBTQ+ community. Benedict, a trans 16-year-old of Choctaw ancestry, died the day after reportedly being assaulted by classmates in a bathroom at Owasso High School. Hundreds of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and allied organizations from across the U.S. signed onto the letter, along with public figures like Kristin Chenoweth, Demi Lovato, Emma Roberts, k.d. lang, and Peppermint.

In the letter, advocates linked Benedict’s death to the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed around the country within the past two years, condemning Walters’ role in the rise in anti-trans sentiment in particular. “Superintendent Ryan Walters is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and hate against the 2SLGBTQI+ community in Oklahoma schools,” the letter reads, citing such official acts as Walters’ appointment of “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raichik to a state advisory board earlier this year.

“We are outraged that a climate of hate and bigotry has been not only allowed to thrive, but encouraged by the person who is responsible for education in the state of Oklahoma,” the letter reads. “State officials must be held accountable for bringing the politics of hate into Oklahoma’s schools and making our most vulnerable youth pay the price.”

Walters called Benedict’s death a “tragedy” in an interview with the New York Times last week, but doubled down on his anti-trans stance immediately after. “There’s not multiple genders. There’s two. That’s how God created us,” he told the newspaper, adding that he did not believe trans or nonbinary people exist. Walters added that he had “been told [Benedict’s] death wasn’t directly related to the fight at school,” a piece of misinformation in the case that local police have since walked back. Two days after that interview was published, Walters accused “woke mobs” and news media of lying about the details of Benedict’s death to push an anti-conservative agenda in a video posted to X, formerly Twitter.