Update: Some information in this article has been updated to reflect the current status of Mr. Griffith’s complaint.
TVLSE, Okla – Mvskoke citizen Aaron Griffith filed complaints with the Oklahoma Department of Education this past fall. The formal complaints have led to dialogue with the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences (TSAS) and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), resolving some issues but leaving others open.
Griffith originally filed complaints with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, alleging that TSAS is noncompliant with Title I Parents Right to Know disclosure requirements, Title VI, and Johnson O’Malley (JOM) parental involvement and tribal consultation requirements.
He also filed a noncompliance complaint concerning violations of the prohibition against sectarian affiliations in the provisions and policies of Tulsa Public Schools and the Oklahoma Charter School Act. Griffith specified that a TSAS Governing Board Member, Angela Vivar, works as Director of Hispanic Ministries at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church and this is in violation of the provision.
Griffith was able to speak with the executive director at TSAS about his grievances and was able to come to an understanding with the school. Griffith stated, “We have discussed things and I’m generally satisfied with the response from TSAS to address my concerns and complaints.”
Griffith has told the OSDE he wants more clarity for districts regarding the sectarian affiliation prohibition. In communication with the OSDE investigator on Dec 21, Griffith stated, “I want there to be a clear understanding and standard in place for the scope of sectarian prohibitions so it can be better defined and communicated by the OSDE on this matter, leaving districts with less uncertainty about exactly what these compliance obligations that they must meet are in no uncertain terms as a result of this complaint.”
On Dec 29, Griffith received word from the OSDE’s general counsel via OSDE investigator Karrie Bales that his complaint cannot be addressed through further action by the OSDE. In an email to Griffth, the OSDE replied that there is generally no prohibition on what school board members do for their employment. They wrote, “There might be an issue if the school was doing business with an entity where a school board member works, but I do not understand that to be his complaint. I contacted the school and confirmed that they are not doing any business with the board member in question nor do they believe there is any conflict of interest.”
They also noted in the reply to Griffith that issues he has with the TPS charter school policy are matters of local control.
Griffith is also awaiting a reply from the Tulsa County District Attorney regarding an Attorney General opinion request on his behalf. He has also requested opinions from state Representative Melodye Blanchett and Representative Mark McBride. He has been told they are reviewing and researching the facts and circumstances around the complaint before making a final decision.