State Board of Education member Herb Rozell on Thursday said a pregnant woman hired as the legislative liaison for the Education Department would be “worthless” to them if she has her baby in May.
The comment was made during newly elected state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi's first meeting. She attempted to have five members of her transition team approved by the board, but she was met with opposition, and the employees were quizzed about their qualifications.
Immediately after the meeting, Rozell's comment was condemned by Gov. Mary Fallin, Barresi and a number of lawmakers.
“As a pregnant woman myself who ran for the state Legislature in 1990 and had a baby between sessions, I can say women can be pregnant and get the job done,” Fallin said during a news conference at the state Capitol. “Shame on them for making fun of a pregnant woman. It's really disgusting to hear those kinds of comments being made.”
State Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, called for Rozell to publicly apologize and resign from the post he was appointed to last year by former Gov. Brad Henry.
“I thought it was archaic, misogynistic and deplorable,” Jolley said.
When the board began to consider hiring Jessica Russell as the department's legislative liaison, Barresi asked if Russell could remain seated because she was nervous and also pregnant.
The board agreed, and board member Tim Gilpin asked several questions about Russell's qualifications for the job.