OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Starting Monday, students and staff at Oklahoma City Public Schools will be required to wear a mask to school. But similar to the district’s immunization policy, superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel says parents will be able to obtain an exemption for their child.
“There are opt out options,” McDaniel said during an online press conference Friday morning. “If I have a religious exemption, if I have a health condition or if I have a personal reason I can opt out.”
McDaniel also announced that any employee who can show proof of vaccination before Nov. 15 will get a $1,000 stipend. These fund will come from the district’s ESSER and ARP funds, McDaniel says.
OKCPS joins Santa Fe South as districts that are implementing mask mandates – even when Senate Bill 658 prevents schools from putting one in place.
But McDaniel says he was able to make this decision because he is putting in the mandate and not the school board.
“I think I am actually upholding the law by taking this route because it is specific to school boards and I believe it also adds career tech boards,” McDaniel said.
A spokesman for the governor told KFOR that although they acknowledge the district made a “big show” out of defying state law, they say the important thing is that “parental choice is still being preserved.”
Attorney Holly Hefton broke down the law for us to see if there was anything in the bill itself preventing Dr. McDaniel from making his decision.
“The bill actually is prohibitive, so it sets forth who can not implement a mandate,” Hefton said. “It does not say that superintendents cannot do that.”
She also shared with us what she believes could happen if the governor decides to take legal action.
“If the governor does decide that he opposes this action by a superintendent, then he would use his access to the courts,” Hefton said. “The governor could ask the courts to determine what we call a declaratory judgement. By doing that he is asking the court to determine whether the superintendent has the power to do this under this law.”
Hefton says if the governor were to take that avenue, he could ask the courts to enter some type of injunction that would prevent the school from allowing the superintendent to mandate masks.
The author of SB658, Rep. Kevin West, has released a statement saying this is a “blatant violation of state law” and the school board is still responsible because they “hire the superintendent and as such, any action taken by them is done so with their authority.”