OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Six Oklahoma City Public Schools employees are on paid administrative leave after refusing to wear a face mask while on school property.
OKCPS officials issued the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:
“Today, six OKCPS employees were placed on paid Administrative Leave after refusing to comply with the district’s requirement that face coverings be worn while on school property. Per OKCPS Administrative Regulation C-26-R2 (under C-26 Wellness) Mask Requirement to Protect against the Spread of COVID-19, all employees are afforded the opportunity to request a medical accommodation.
Because this is an ongoing personnel matter, we cannot comment further. As always, the health and safety of OKCPS students and staff is our highest priority.”OKLAHOMA CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Superintendent Sean McDaniel announced last week that OKCPS would require students and staff to wear a face mask on school property as a precaution against the surging COVID-19 pandemic, which has been exacerbated by the highly contagious Delta variant.
The school district enacted the mask policy despite Senate Bill 658, a law which prohibits Oklahoma schools from requiring students and staff to a wear a face mask unless Gov. Kevin Stitt were to declare a sate of emergency. Stitt signed the bill into law on May 28.
McDaniel said last week that the face mask mandate does not violate SB 658 because he, the superintendent, enacted the policy, 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.
Rep. Kevin West, the author of SB 658, said last week that OKCPS’ policy is a “blatant violation of state law” and that 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.”
A group of Oklahoma parents and the Oklahoma State Medical Association filed a lawsuit against the state, last week, for prohibiting face mask mandates in schools.
Parents and guardians can opt their child out of wearing a face mask if a religious exemption, health condition or personal reason is provided, according to McDaniel.
McDaniel also announced last week that any OKCPS 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.