Oklahoma superintendent faces blowback for putting Libs of TikTok creator on library panel

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's new Republican superintendent of public schools is facing bipartisan criticism for appointing a right-wing social media influencer from New York to a state library advisory committee.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters announced Chaya Raichik's appointment to the committee on Tuesday, saying she is “on the front lines showing the world exactly what the radical left is all about — lowering standards, porn in schools, and pushing woke indoctrination on our kids.”

Raichik's Libs of TikTok account on X frequently features anti-trans posts and clips of public school teachers aimed at generating right-wing outrage. One of her posts last year showing an edited video critical of a public school librarian in Tulsa led to several consecutive days of bomb threats to schools in the district.

In 2022, medical providers at Children’s National Hospital in Washington became the latest targets of social media campaigns harassing U.S. hospitals after a post to the Libs of TikTok account.

Walters' appointment of Raichik drew bipartisan criticism in Oklahoma.

State Rep. Mark McBride, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and a frequent Walters critic, questioned the wisdom of appointing someone known for incendiary social media posts.

“I don't see any need to have a 28-year-old realtor from New York that has no children appointed to this position when there are extremely qualified parents, teachers and librarians in Oklahoma,” McBride, a Republican from Moore, said in a text message to The Associated Press.

Rep. Mickey Dollens, an Oklahoma City Democrat and former public school teacher, said Raichik's appointment also seems to violate the department's own rules for advisory committees, which require members to be “representative of the people to be served.”

“Is she a librarian? No. Does she have kids in Oklahoma schools? No. Does she even live in Oklahoma? No,” Dollens said. “How is this ‘representative of the people to be served?’”

The Library Media Advisory Committee is a board of volunteers appointed by Walters that makes recommendations on books and materials available in school libraries.

Walters said Wednesday that opponents, including “union leftists," are scared that Raichik is on his team.

“They know we will continue to expose their agenda to indoctrinate our kids with a woke agenda and push pornographic material into the classroom,” he said in a statement. “Oklahoma continues to lead the nation on crushing Joe Biden's war on our kids.”

A former public school teacher elected in 2022, Walters ran on a platform of fighting “woke ideology” in public schools, banning books from school libraries and getting rid of “radical leftists” who he claims are indoctrinating children in classrooms across the state. Since his election, he has clashed with leaders in both parties for his continued focus on culture-war issues including transgender rights and banning books in schools.

The regular State Board of Education meetings that Walters chairs, which had typically been routine, bureaucratic affairs, have now become sounding boards for political grievances from the public, with people waiting for hours to get a seat in the small conference room. A meeting last year became so contentious that a scuffle broke out, leading to criminal charges against two men.

Walters' appointment of Raichik comes just a week after a report in the news outlet The Frontier that Walters expensed travel for speaking engagements, media appearances and a horror movie premiere, despite an executive order from the governor banning public spending for most out-of-state travel.