OK teachers fleeing amid $10k religious lawsuit bill

Ozark Opinions

Oklahoma Educators are Leaving the Profession as Republican Senator introduces $10,000 Bounty Bill

Oklahoma teachers are leaving classrooms at remarkable rates. 1 in 5 are reportedly planning on leaving the field, and 15% admit that they are already job searching. With an average pay of only $10.80 per hour, and now the possible chance to be personally sued for $10,000 by parents and be fired anyway, can you really blame them?

Republican Senator Rob Standridge has introduced Senate Bill 1470. This bill is also known as the "Students' Religious Belief Protection Act." Similar to the Texas abortion bounty bill, this bill would allow a parent, or a friend according to the wording, to personally sue a school if they feel an employee “promotes positions that are in opposition to closely held religious beliefs of the student.”

To put it plainly, if someone thinks a teacher is promoting ideas that go against their child’s beliefs, they can sue the school and the school is supposed to remedy the situation somehow. If the school fails to comply, the parent can personally sue the teacher or administrators for $10,000 per person per incident. The teacher would also have to pay those thousands from their own pocket. If they get help from any other individuals or organizations, they are to be fired and banned from working in a state school for 5 years. And even if the teacher comes up with the ten grand and the parent still isn’t happy, they can sue again and have the teacher fired and barred from working in state schools permanently.

Of course, if this bill passed and a lawsuit occurred, a judge would have to oversee the case and find standing for the parent to sue. Similar to employment discrimination cases, the burden might then be put on the teacher or school to challenge the credibility of the student and their beliefs. The definitions of a ‘closely held’ and ‘religious belief’ are extremely broad and may not be limited to strict religious requirements. Any practice or belief you deem a part of your religion ultimately may count, as long as it is ‘sincerely held’.

In 2021, Senator Standridge introduced a similar bill that would effectively ban all books in school that relate to sex, fire the librarian, ban them from public schools, and require them to pay $10,000.

Earlier in January he also proposed a bill that would require cities to force homeless camps to obtain permits and comply with building codes. Failure to comply would result in the city being forced to demolish the camps.

Senator Standridge represents about 93,000 voters in the Southeast Oklahoma City area of Norman, which is the Oklahoma State Senate District 15. He has a taxpayer funded salary of $47,000 plus $165 per day he is in office.

Are these types of bills productive? Would you vote for them? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

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