TULSA, Okla. -- Oklahoma's schools superintendent said Thursday that her chief of staff calling school administrators "dirtbags" in a personal Twitter post was a "poor choice of words" – but called a lawsuit targeting parents of special-needs children that prompted the comment vindictive and "groundless."
In her Sept. 7 posting, which was first reported by the Tulsa World, Jennifer Carter referred to a lawsuit the Jenks and Union school districts brought against the parents of special-needs students who had sued the districts.
The parents claim the districts refused to grant them scholarships they believe they're entitled to under state law. The scholarships allow parents to send their special-needs children to private schools.
The districts' lawsuit seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional because school officials say it gives public money to private institutions. They also say the scholarship program unequally benefits parents living in wealthier areas by shaving off some of the financial burden if they decide to move their child to another school.
"These public taxpayer dollars are going to private and religious schools," said Bonnie Rogers, spokeswoman for Jenks Public Schools. Rogers noted that of the 33 private schools signed up to participate in the scholarship program, at least 31 have some sort of religious affiliation.
Oklahoma schools Superintendent Janet Barresi called Carter's text "a poor choice of words" in a statement issued Thursday, but again blamed school superintendents for suing parents "who want nothing more than what's best for their children."
"I think Oklahomans are concerned and shocked that any school district would vindictively target the parents of special needs children with a groundless lawsuit," she said.
Carter, who has been on maternity leave, released a statement Thursday admitting that she "could have used a different word" in her tweet, but continued to criticize the superintendents of harassing and bullying parents at taxpayer expense.