Group of Oklahoma parents, OK State Medical Association seek injunction against law banning mask mandates in schools

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FILE - In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. As the nation closes out a school year marred by the pandemic, some states are now starting to release new standardized test scores that offer an early glimpse at just how far students have fallen behind — with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of progress across every academic subject. New York, Georgia and some other states pushed to cancel testing for a second year so schools could focus on classroom learning. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Medical Association and a group of parents are now pursuing a temporary injunction against Senate Bill 658, the state law that prohibits schools from implementing mask mandates.

The plaintiffs filed the motion in the District Court of Oklahoma County, asking that the law be temporarily enjoined until the court rules on the previously filed petition, which asked the court to declare SB 658 a violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

The lawsuit names both the State of Oklahoma and Gov. Kevin Stitt as defendants. Senate Bill 658 prohibits Oklahoma schools from requiring students and staff to a wear a face mask unless Stitt were to declare a sate of emergency. Stitt signed the bill into law on May 28.

The suit states that SB 658 violates the Oklahoma Constitution. It goes on to list the following causes of action and accompanying arguments:

  1. Violation of equal protection
  2. Violation of Oklahoma Constitution Article 5, Section 46 – “Oklahoma Constitution Article 5, Section 46 prohibits the enactment of special laws regulating the affairs of cities or school districts.”
  3. Senate Bill 658 violates Article 5, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution – “The Oklahoma Constitution…requires that every act of the Legislature embrace only one subject. On it’s face, Senate Bill 658 encompasses more than one subject and more than one theme.”
  4. Violation of due process – “Due process requires that legislation have a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest. Legislation that is unreasonable or arbitrary in unconstitutional even if it does not violate any procedural requirements of the Constitution. A citizen may successfully challenge a statute or ordinance if the measure is clearly arbitrary or unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.”
  5. Violation of Oklahoma children’s right to a free education in a safe environment
  6. Injunctive and declaratory relief

Plaintiffs include Dr. Valerie Ritter, Kimberly Butler, Mary Ann Martin and Dr. Britney Else, who are referred to in the lawsuit as parents of Oklahoma public school students. The Oklahoma State Medical Association is listed as a co-plaintiff.

The plaintiffs want schools to have the freedom to enact mask mandates to protect students, staff and community members from the COVID-19 pandemic.

High school students at school, wearing N95 Face masks. Sitting in a classroom.
High school students at school, wearing face masks while sitting in a classroom.

The lawsuit states that the Oklahoma State Department of Health lists “consistent and correct use of [face] masks” as a key strategy for preventing COVID-19 in school facilities.

It further details why the plaintiffs have a special concern over mask mandates being prohibited in schools. Some of the plaintiffs have children who are immunocompromised, and are also doctors who have treated COVID patients.

The original lawsuit is as follows:

It can also be downloaded below:

The motion for injunction is as follows:

It can be downloaded below:

The Oklahoma State Medical Association issued the following statement after the lawsuit was announced:

“The Oklahoma State Medical Association is committed to better health for Oklahoma. It’s even written into our mission statement. With this in mind, we are glad to sign on to the lawsuit to vacate SB 658 and any action that prevents Oklahoma schools from enacting policies that could keep their students, teachers and staff safe and healthy.

The science stands firmly behind vaccinations and masking as important tools in stopping the spread of COVID-19. As we are experiencing record numbers of children infected by the Delta variant and hospitals are stretched to capacity, we must do everything we can to keep Oklahoma’s children safe.

DR. MARY CLARKE, M.D., OSMA PRESIDENT

School districts are starting to implement face mask mandates despite the law that forbids such action.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel announced a face mask mandate for students and staff, last week, to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. McDaniel said the mandate is not in violation of state law because he enacted it, not the district’s school board.

Hulbert Public Schools officials announced Thursday that their district is now requiring face masks. The decision comes after Hulbert middle and high school students moved to distance learning through Thursday, Aug. 19, because of a growing number of students having to quarantine.

Both Stitt and Oklahoma and Attorney General John O’Connor criticized the Hulbert School Board’s decision.

“It is disappointing that one school district has chosen to openly violate a state law that was supported by 80 percent of the Legislature. The goal of SB658 was to ensure every student in Oklahoma could go to school in person and parents retained the fundamental right to make health care decisions for their children. To be clear, no parent is banned from sending their child to school with a mask and no school may mandate masks or vaccines. I will always stand up for parents’ right to decide what is best for their child,” Stitt said.

“We are vigorously defending SB658 in court because it is plainly constitutional and helps protect the choices of students and parents. Under the new law, public school boards cannot implement a mask mandate, unless certain conditions are met, including that the school district be in an area under a current state of emergency declared by the Governor. Under our constitution, the Legislature gets to set the policy of the state—especially on controversial issues like this—and schools should not be actively trying to undermine our constitutional structure of government by violating duly-enacted state law,” O’Connor said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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