Kirk Humphreys is back on the board of John Rex Charter Elementary as of Monday night after being removed a few weeks ago.
After the meeting, active John Rex parent Moriah Guild, described the controversy and consequent struggle over Humphreys’ position as “teachable moments for conflict resolution” for everyone involved in the school.
Humphreys had previously been on the board as an appointee of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents but was removed when he resigned from the Regents Jan. 3 over statements he made on a local TV opinion show.
The John Rex Board had no choice but to seat him because he was appointed by the mysterious nonprofit OKC Quality Schools that has the power to appoint six of the 17 John Rex board members.
OKC Quality Schools is a non-profit that does not officially publish who is on its board or in its membership. It raises no money as an organization.
Humphreys is filling the position of Lyndon Taylor who resigned in April. The term of that seat expires in 2019.
It comes after a bitter struggle between parents of John Rex students over whether Humphreys should still be on the board after associating homosexuality with illegal sex between adults and children on a local TV opinion show.
In response, Paula Lewis, chair of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, called for his resignation from the John Rex Board.
Parents against Humphreys staying on the board and those wanting him to stay came in groups to the last Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education meeting Jan. 8 and spoke on both sides of the issue.
Humphreys resigned from the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, lost his post as chair of the John Rex Board as a result and apologized in a public news conference.
By design, the 17-member John Rex Board has six members appointed by OKC Quality Schools, six by Oklahoma City Public Schools Board. Two more are appointed as non-voting members of the John Rex board by OU, the charter sponsor.
Then, those 14 appoint three more. Parents fill those three positions at present.
Monday, John Rex board member and vice-chairperson Phil Horning took the chairperson position and moved the meeting forward.
He set the public comments time so that three of those who wanted to speak in Humphreys’ defense and three who wanted to speak against could be heard alternating between one side and the other.
The three that spoke for Humphries defended him as a leader in the community and someone who should have the right to his own opinion in matters of faith, which Humphreys has claimed as the foundation of his comments about homosexuality.
Kevin DeShazo described John Rex, parents, teachers, administrators and community supporters as “a community that Kirk Humphreys has played a foundational role in creating, sustaining and meeting.”
He said parents do not condone his comments but recognize his attempts “to reconcile with the community.”
DeShazo pointed to Humphreys’ advocacy of the school from the beginning when he was Mayor of Oklahoma City.
Humphreys’ son-in-law, Jonathan Middlebrooks, spoke passionately saying that he was not just there to speak for Humphreys, but the “massive support” in the rest of the community.
The theme of Middlebrooks’ comments was that Humphreys was the victimized one.
“I believe there is a real danger for the school and our community that allows someone’s personal beliefs to make them the target of hate and exclusion from leadership in public institutions,” Middlebrooks said.
Attorney Leslie Batchelor spoke for Humphreys saying “I disagree with Kirk.” But, she had also found him to be “tolerant and respectful” of her differing views over the 15 years they had been acquainted.
Bachelor closed asking everyone present to do the “hard work of democracy by talking it through, working it through and then, focusing on the things we have in common.”
Christopher Kavanaugh leveled sharp criticism saying that Humphreys had “taken the place of Sally Kern as the face of intolerance” in Oklahoma City.
From 2004 to 2016 Sally Kern was an Oklahoma legislator from the west side of the metro who had strong, controversial ideas about homosexuality.
Being on a public school board is not a right, it is a privilege,” said Kavanaugh.
Audra Beasley criticized the board for their lack of communication with parents throughout the controversy.
“As parents we are asking for access, open communication and full transparency from you the board and each entity that governs it, to include OKC Quality Schools,” said Beasley. “I have read the school board policies and found that there is a lack of accountability for you as board members.”
She referred to strong policies against bullying and intolerance from the John Rex principal, teachers and staff, but no such policies for board members.
Magie Howell was the last to speak against Humphreys being seated on the John Rex board.
She read quotes from various comments Humphreys had made over the years about women and his beliefs that they are not suited to the workplace.
She also read quotes from Humphreys’ statements about homosexuality.
She read some of Humphreys’ comments about various “gene pools” and how certain people of a quality gene pool had moved to the suburbs.
The board voted to establish a committee that would look closely into unified policies about intolerance and bullying for everyone connected to John Rex school.
On her way out after the meeting, Beasley said she thought the new committee was going to be “amazing.”
She said the committee would develop a new policy that “will keep him [Humphreys] reigned in.”