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Oklahoma Education Board member criticized for comment to pregnant woman

Oklahoma Board of Education member Herb Rozell, a former state senator, commented that the Education Department's legislative liaison would be “worthless” to them if she has baby in May.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Modified: January 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm •  Published: January 28, 2011

/articleid/3536113/1/pictures/1356790">Photo - In foreground, board member Herb Rozell. In background, Betsy Maybry and Gayle Miles-Scott, far left. State Superintendent Janet Barresi conducted the first meeting of the state board of education since she assumed her post earlier this month. The meeting, in the Ralph Hodges Building, near the state Capitol, on Thursday, January 27, 2011, became contentious at times as board members and Barresi exchanged verbal barbs as to how the business of the board and the superintendent's office should be run. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
In foreground, board member Herb Rozell. In background, Betsy Maybry and Gayle Miles-Scott, far left. State Superintendent Janet Barresi conducted the first meeting of the state board of education since she assumed her post earlier this month. The meeting, in the Ralph Hodges Building, near the state Capitol, on Thursday, January 27, 2011, became contentious at times as board members and Barresi exchanged verbal barbs as to how the business of the board and the superintendent's office should be run. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Board members voted unanimously to approve Russell, but then Rozell asked when her baby was due.

“If she has that child in April and takes off six weeks, she's worthless to us,” Rozell said. “She won't be able to keep up.”

“Sir, that is highly, highly inappropriate,” Barresi scolded him. “Your comment is inappropriate, and it is not worthy of this board or this department. Sir, I would ask you to withdraw your statement. Can we please take a 10-minute recess, please?”

Board member Tim Gilpin then asked, “Can we have a motion that she not have her baby in April or May?”

Gilpin then told Barresi she had “fairly thin skin” if she was offended by the comments.

“I was clear that his statement was joking,” Gilpin said.

Russell left the board meeting in tears and said she was embarrassed by the comments.

“As a young professional woman, I was just in shock that that would even be said,” Russell said in an interview after the meeting. “I just couldn't believe that something like that would be said in this day and age.”

Despite the comments, Russell said she is looking forward to beginning her work for the Education Department.

Rozell, a former state senator, and Gilpin, an attorney from Tulsa, said after the meeting that the comments were said in a joking manner.

“There is nothing that was said that was inappropriate,” Rozell said.


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