Friday, January 28, 2011

Rep. Billy Condemns Misogynist Bullying by State Board of Ed Members

Rep. Lisa Billy
Notes Board Members' Harassment Directed at Women

State Rep. Lisa J. Billy today joined the chorus of officials condemning the actions and sexist comments of State Board of Education members and called for their immediate resignation to “restore the integrity of the Board of Education.”

            “I am utterly disgusted by the sexist comments and unprofessional actions of State Board of Education members,” said Billy, R-Purcell. “The board has embarrassed the state of Oklahoma and its members have disgraced themselves.”

            During a discussion on the possible hiring of a woman expecting her first child at yesterday’s meeting, board member Herb Rozell referred to the woman as being “worthless” because of her pregnancy.

            Board member Tim Gilpin immediately added, “Can we have a motion that she not have her baby in April or May?” In a subsequent interview with News 9 in Oklahoma City, Gilpin referred to the same employee as being an “individual in a less than full capacity.”

            Billy noted those comments appeared to violate employment discrimination laws.

            “For these men to claim a woman is ‘worthless’ if she is pregnant ranks among the most repugnant things I have ever heard any state official say,” Billy said, “and that alone justifies their immediate resignation.”

            Billy noted board members engaged in bullying behavior throughout the meeting, and directed most of their fire at women. (I noticed this as well)

The board refused to hire Jennifer Carter as chief of staff, even though Carter is an attorney with a higher level of educational attainment than her predecessors. Carter previously worked as Assistant Insurance Commissioner for Government Relations for Democrat Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland and as Director of Legal Services/Government Relations for the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE). In that position, Carter mediated and filed grievances on behalf of teachers and represented educators at board hearings and in lawsuits.

            Board members also refused to hire Jill Geiger for Director of Finance even though she was most recently a Deputy Director of the Division of the Budget at the Office of State Finance with six years experience in state education finances.

            “No one can argue with a straight face that these women are not well qualified,” Billy said. “It appears to me the board’s actions were based on sexist views of women, and had nothing to do with job duties.

“As someone who has campaigned with her small children in tow and served as a legislator while pregnant, I know firsthand that women can easily handle job and family. Apparently, the board members can’t even handle just one of those two tasks.”

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