Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters announced Tuesday that he is opening an investigation into Western Heights Public Schools after it hired a drag queen, who had previously been charged with possession of child pornography, as a principal for one of its elementary schools.

Dr. Shane Brent Murnan was hired by John Glenn Elementary School ahead of the fall 2023 semester to be its principal but the decision was quickly met with backlash after parents discovered that he openly performs as a drag queen and had been arrested on child pornography charges in 2001, which were later dismissed in 2002. Walters said that his investigation concerned the use of taxpayer funding to hire a drag queen as staff and would be reviewing Murnan’s teaching certificate as well, according to the announcement.

“I have heard from parents in Western Heights and throughout Oklahoma who are deeply concerned about the message being sent by a district who would put a drag queen in charge of one of our schools,” Walters said in a statement. “It’s simply unacceptable. Mr. Murnan has been very clear that he is ‘very open’ about his alter ego and has shared it not only on publicly available social media but has performed in public libraries under the very thin veil of would-be anonymity. These are not the actions of a school leader concerned about the well-being of children.”

Murnan was arrested by police and had his devices confiscated on suspicion of possession of child porn, while he was a fifth-grade teacher at Will Rodgers Elementary School in Oklahoma, and an appeals court judge agreed with officers that it was “clear from a review of the pictures that they do represent child pornography,” according to The Oklahoman.

Later, a Payne County District judge ordered that the charges be dismissed in August 2002, claiming that the age of the children could not be determined in the pictures, The Oklahoman reported. His record was also expunged after he finished his probation period for a drug charge in 2003, according to the Oklahoma State Courts Network.

Murnan reportedly also works at a gay bar called The Boom in Oklahoma City, which holds “Sunday gospel brunch” as well as “a farcical church service.” He also won Miss Gay Oklahoma America and Miss Gay Oklahoma USofA in 2017.

The district replied in a press release, saying that they had followed “usual hiring” practices during Murnan’s application process and had performed a “felony criminal background check” as well as verifying his teaching certificate. They also argued that they did not use any school funds “on drag queens” as Walters suggested.

“Trust and transparency are foundational pillars of our community, and we are confident that the District is operating within the realm of the law,” the district wrote. “WHPS is committed to working in collaboration with OSDE as they conduct their investigation.”

Murnan could not be reached for comment.

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