An Enid woman whose appointment to the state Board of Education sparked immediate backlash has withdrawn from consideration, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday.
Melissa Crabtree, a vocal anti-mask advocate who led an Enid group opposing a mask mandate, asked the governor to rescind her appointment.
“I am grateful to Governor Stitt for nominating me to serve on the Oklahoma State Board of Education and it is a tremendous honor to be considered. However, after careful consideration, I have determined that this is not the right opportunity for me to serve my state,” Crabtree said in a statement provided by the governor’s office.
Parents, teachers, education advocates and Democratic lawmakers criticized Crabtree’s lack of qualifications and her frequent social media posts focusing on debunked COVID-19 medical advice, conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine content. The posts were hidden from public view after news of her appointment became public.
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Crabtree homeschools her children; she taught special education from 1998 to 2002 and is currently an essential oils salesperson and administrative assistant to public speaker and author Heidi St. John, according to information she provided to the governor’s office.
“I was extremely disappointed to see how many were quick to judge her without taking the time to personally speak to her,” Stitt said in a statement. “Ms. Crabtree is a loving mother and wife, and her public school teaching experience and work with special needs children would have been valuable assets to our state.”
Crabtree, who hadn’t spoken publicly about her appointment, turned down an interview request with an Oklahoma Watch reporter and referred questions to the governor’s office. Stitt on Friday responded to some questions through a spokesperson but did not address her social media posts.
They include multiple posts from earlier this year endorsing the controversial strategy of achieving herd immunity without the use of widespread vaccinations.
In one post from last week, she wrote that “once viruses are here, the way we get herd immunity is by people building immunity to the virus” and that she’d “rather have (the virus) than get the vaccine.”
Medical experts, including a team of Johns Hopkins researchers, have repeatedly stressed that allowing this to occur would cause a catastrophic number of deaths and would overwhelm hospitals.
On Sept. 28, Crabtree also shared a conspiracy theory-filled anti-vaccination article from a fringe blockchain-based blogging and social media website that warned the U.S. Department of Defense is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to detect COVID-19 through an implanted biochip that could “control our mind and bodies.”
Stitt said Monday a new appointee will be identified as soon as possible.
In his statement, Stitt criticized Democrats and teachers’ unions for objecting to Crabtree’s selection.
“It’s become clear that Democrats and unions only value the voices of teachers when they are willing to fall in line with their political agendas,” he said.
Following reporting by Oklahoma Watch and numerous other news outlets Friday, the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee began circulating a petition asking Stitt to rescind Crabtree’s appointment. They also asked for Stitt to immediately reinstate Kurt Bollenbach, a Kingfisher oilman and municipal judge.
The committee is a nonpartisan group of parent volunteers.
Bollenbach was abruptly removed from the board on Friday. Stitt had appointed Bollenbach to the Board of Education in 2019, and Bollenbach was in the minority of board members who supported a statewide mask mandate and had raised questions about private schools’ applications to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program.
Jennifer Palmer has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2016 and covers education. Contact her at (405) 761-0093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jpalmerOKC
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