Oklahoma State Medical Association, parents file lawsuit against state over law banning mask mandates in schools

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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.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma State Medical Association and parents of public school students filed a lawsuit against the state for prohibiting face mask mandates in schools.

The lawsuit, which names both the State of Oklahoma and Gov. Kevin Stitt as defendants, is in reaction to Senate Bill 658, which prohibits Oklahoma schools from requiring students and staff to a wear a face mask unless Stitt were to declare a sate of emergency.

The bill was sent to Stitt for approval on May 26. He approved it two days later.

The lawsuit lists 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

The full lawsuit can be downloaded below:

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.

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.

Martin is a Cleveland County resident whose three daughters are Norman Public Schools students. One of her daughters has serious health issues and a compromised immune system. Martin and her husband both work full time and cannot stay at home, making online classes a non-option in protecting their children from COVID-19.

Ritter is described as a licensed, practicing doctor of osteopathic medicine who resides in Tulsa County. She’s a parent of two Tulsa public school students, one of whom has a history of bronchiectasis and hospitalizations for respiratory distress and pneumonia.

“As a pediatric physician, Dr. Ritter took care of a number of patients with COVID-19 last year, but with universal mask and distancing precautions had very few, if any, who contracted COVID from a classmate. Already this summer, Dr. Ritter has seen patients who contracted COVID from a non-masked classmate at camp or summer school,” the lawsuit states.

Butler is also a Tulsa County resident. Her nine-year-old son has epilepsy and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Stitt has remained adamant that schools cannot mandate face masks among students and staff unless he declares a state of emergency.

A hearing on the lawsuit has been set for Wednesday, Aug. 18, in the District Court of Oklahoma County.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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