Leaders in the Oklahoma House ramped up security by erecting guard stations in hallways, banning public access to stairwells, and hiring an ex-police officer licensed to carry a gun less than one year after thousands of teachers’ staged peaceful protests in the Oklahoma Capitol to demand more education funding.
The increase in security was imposed by majority Republicans as a new session of the legislature opened last week. House Speaker Charles McCall denied the measures were prompted by the two-week teacher walkout, which was peaceful and didn’t result in any arrests. He said that limiting public access to the stairwells would allow members to more easily access the chamber and that the guard stations outside the offices of the top two House leaders were to provide information to visitors.
But the No. 2 House leader, Rep. Harold Wright, acknowledged the teacher walkout—which at times packed hallways and member offices with frustrated teachers—played a role in the decision.
Several bills have been introduced by Republican lawmakers to make it more difficult for teachers to rally at the Capitol, including one to make it illegal for teachers or districts to participate in a walkout and another to require groups of more than 100 at the Capitol to post a $50,000 bond. Both are unlikely to become law.
A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as Oklahoma Lawmakers Ramp Up Security At Capitol After Teacher Protests