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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday night to terminate six Oklahoma City Public Schools teachers who refused to abide by the school district’s face mask requirement.

The Board announced the terminations after going into executive session. The vote concluded a lengthy hearing.

Picture of Sean McDaniel
Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel at a January press conference. (Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma)

Superintendent Sean McDaniel recommended to the Board that the six teachers be terminated for refusing to comply with the OKCPS face mask policy.

McDaniel implemented Administrative Regulation C-26-R2 on Aug. 13, requiring face masks be worn on school property, in school vehicles and during school functions to protect students and staff from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fall term had just started, and several COVID-19 cases were being reported in OKCPS schools, as well as other schools across Central Oklahoma.

McDaniel enacted the policy despite Senate Bill 658, an Oklahoma law signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt last May, prohibiting school boards from implementing face mask mandates.

OKCPS’ face mask requirement was not in violation of SB 658 because it was implemented by McDaniel, the superintendent, not the school board.

School district officials announced on Aug. 17 that six employees were placed on administrative leave for refusing to comply with the face mask requirement.

Those six teachers were notified on Aug. 26 that McDaniel was recommending to the Board of Education that they be terminated.

Masks at OKCPS
Superintendent Sean McDaniel greeting students as they return to school.

An Oklahoma County District Court judge halted SB 658 on Sept. 1, allowing school districts to once again implement face mask requirements.

Five of the six teachers filed a lawsuit in early September against the school district and McDaniel. A court ruled on Sept. 24 that OKCPS can continue requiring staff to wear face coverings.

OKCPS officials released the following statement after the Board of Education’s decision to terminate the six teachers:

“On August 13, Superintendent McDaniel adopted Administrative Regulation C-26-R2 which requires face coverings to be worn on school property, in school vehicles, and at school-sponsored events regardless of vaccination status. It is paramount that we provide our students a safe and healthy learning environment.

OKCPS families could choose to opt students out of this requirement for medical, religious or personal reasons, and to date only 171 students have chosen to do so. That’s less than half of one percent of our student population. All district staff also had the opportunity to request a medical accommodation, if needed, and only 12 of our nearly 5,000 employees have chosen to do so.

On August 26, 2021, six OKCPS educators were notified of the Superintendent’s recommendation for termination to the Board of Education following their refusal to comply with our mask requirement regulation. On September 24, 2021, the Court denied a request filed on behalf of the teachers and ruled that OKCPS can continue to require our staff to wear face coverings. Today, the Board of Education conducted due process hearings for the six OKCPS educators. Since these employees continue to refuse to follow a reasonable directive over a law that is unsettled, OKCPS board members voted unanimously to move forward with termination of these six teachers.

Our district has invested heavily in a variety of safeguards in order to create layers of protection for our students and staff including a focus on cleaning, air ionization, self-screening, access to PPE, contact tracing, testing and social distancing to the greatest extent possible. But science tells us that this is simply not enough. OKCPS continues to believe — and public health officials across the board agree — that masks along with a variety of other safeguards will give us the best chance to keep OKCPS students and staff safe, healthy and learning together in-person on our campuses.

As always, the health and safety of OKCPS students and staff is our highest priority.”