Ryan Walters, who won his race to be Oklahoma’s next public school superintendent, throws a “Make America Great Again” cap to the crowd at a Republican election watch party on Tuesday. (Photo: Associated Press)
Ryan Walters, the Republican candidate for school superintendent in Oklahoma who repeated an urban legend about school children identifying as cats and demanding to use kitty litter, won its race in a landslide.
Walters, a former teacher of the year finalist from the town of McAlester in eastern Oklahoma, beat Democrat Jena Nelsonwho was Oklahoma’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, 57% to 43%.
In a interview with an Oklahoma City television station On Wednesday, Walters said his priority would be to check on the state’s Department of Education.
“There are several elements here that concern me a lot. We need to make sure our money is used in the classroom, gets to our teachers and is not spent on administrative expenses,” he said. “We have to make sure there is no indoctrination in what we do, our programs, how our money is spent.”
A few days before the elections on Tuesday, a blog from Oklahoma posted a video of Walters describing a “legitimate faculty meeting” in which he claimed school staff and faculty debated whether to provide cat litter to students who identify as cats.
In the run-up to this fall’s election, many Republican candidates referenced the idea of college students identifying as cats and demanding to use litter boxes instead of toilets, but it’s always been told like a second-hand story without any proof.
Various media outlets, including NBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and USA today have debunked the claim that it happens in schools. It is unclear how this myth began, but there is speculation that it may have originated from a school in Colorado saying he included kitty litter in his emergency kits.
From Walters’ comments in the video, it was unclear if he claimed to have first-hand knowledge of such a meeting or if a former colleague he said he told about it told him about it. He did not mention a specific school or district.
We do not have.Supt. Robert Steeber on whether McAlester discussed student use of kitty litter
When asked if McAlester Public Schools, the former school district of Walters, had held such a meeting, Superintendent. Robert Steeber told HuffPost: “We do not have.”
The 18,000-member Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, called Walters’ election a “devastating result.”
“There are real issues facing public education in our state. A crisis of educator shortages, oversized classrooms, poverty, lack of mental health counselors and support, and access to resources all require priority over national partisan culture wars and voucher programs. who siphon off money from public schools,” the group said.
“We hope the new representatives will remember every day that they serve all Oklahomans, not just some.”
Tuesday was a good night for the Oklahoma GOP, with many voters seemingly voting in a straight line. Republicans — including Governor Kevin Stitt, who won by a surprisingly large margin over the current public school superintendent, Joy Hofmeister—have been victorious in every major elected office in the state.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.