Parent arrested after calling anti-LGBTQ+ superintendent a ‘bigot and a bully’

A split image of Audra Beasley being arrested by State troopers.

An Oklahoma parent has been arrested after calling the state’s superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, a “bigot and a bully.”

Walters, who is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, faced criticism from Oklahoman parents and guardians on Thursday (25 April) during a public comment section of a State Board of Education meeting.

The right-wing superintendent has come under increased scrutiny in recent months following the death of non-binary student, Nex Benedict, who took his own life according to an autopsy.

During the hearing, parent Audra Beasley accused Walters of “intentionally” denying her children’s rights.

Beasley’s son, Max, reportedly uses a wheelchair. She has advocated for school facilities to be equipped with adult-size changing tables after she was told to change her son on a toilet floor.

Another of her children is part of a “sex and gender-minority group,” she said, before accusing Walters of discrimination against both kids.

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“You are an obnoxious bigot and bully,” she said, pointing at Walters. Another of Beasley’s sons reportedly then addressed the committee, saying: “Why are you bullying kids? The disabled – my brother – the gay, the trans. Why?”

While her son spoke, Beasley was reportedly handcuffed by a state trooper as she continued to direct comments towards Walters.

“Y’all are arresting me in front of my children because this man over here is a bigot and a bully,” she said. “Picking on trans kids, picking on disabled kids, picking on my kids.

“My kids are crying, Ryan Walters,” she added as she was escorted away.

Members of the Oklahoma High Patrol said Beasley was facing a misdemeanour charge of wilfully disturbing, interfering with or disrupting state business, according to The Oklahoman.

During the meeting, described as “emotionally charged” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), members of the community accused Walters of allowing abusive and offensive rhetoric to continue in Oklahoma classrooms.

Transgender students in the state are “afraid to use the bathroom“, said Nicole McAfee, an executive director of Freedom Oklahoma.

“They don’t drink any liquid, at all, until they get home from school because they are worried if they are forced to use a bathroom that does not align with their gender identity, that maybe like Nex, they won’t be alive to come back to school.”

Benedict, who identified as Two Spirit and was a member of the Choctaw Nation, died on 8 February after being taken to hospital a day after an alleged altercation with three girls at Owasso High School.

While in hospital on 7 February, Benedict, along with his mother, told a police officer that he was beaten until he blacked out.

A partial autopsy report released on 13 March concluded that Benedict died of an overdose from a cocktail of drugs. The HRC has criticised Walters’ anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and called on him to resign.

HRC spokesperson Laurel Powell said Thursday’s meeting was “emblematic [of the] chaos that has overtaken Oklahoma’s schools under Ryan Walters’ so-called leadership.”

Powell added: “To watch a parent removed in handcuffs, in front of her children, for demanding answers from their superintendent was heart-breaking and, I hope, a call to action for the majority of Oklahomans who have had enough of his divisive and harmful rhetoric.”