OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Where do Oklahoma school districts stand on the possibility of defying Gov. Kevin Stitt’s law banning mask mandates in schools? KFOR took the question to several large metro districts.
Dallas Independent School District and Austin Public Schools in Texas will now require masks despite the Texas governor’s ban on mandates. While a lot of Oklahoma parents are fine with Stitt’s mandate against mandates, Senate Bill 658, many parents are hoping schools here will defy the law like in Texas, saying their children’s safety is far more important than a governor’s order.
“I’m very, very angry about the idea that children are going to be exposed to a virus five times more contagious than the one we masked everyone for last year,” said Norman Public School Board member Linda Sexton at a Monday night meeting. “I want to pursue the legal avenues that we have to defy Gov. Stitt.”
Oklahoma City attorney Holly Hefton of Holly Hefton Law P.C. said Senate Bill 658 states no penalty for disobeying the law, but she notes other possible consequences.
“If parents are going to push their school district to enter into a mask mandate, I think that’s going to end up costing the school district money,” she said. “They’re going to have to hire attorneys. There could be court intervention requiring that the school district not mandate masks.”
She questions the wisdom of disobedience, saying the governor’s office could take the district to court and then get a court order making the district comply.
“I’m not an attorney for a school board, but it’s possible that the attorneys for the school board would advise the school district if there was an injunctive order, a writ of mandamus or something like that directing the school board to abide by the law, I as their attorney would not recommend them to disobey that order,” she said. “I would be concerned in advising my client to disobey an order.”
KFOR posed the possibility of defiance to several large metro school districts.
“We have not sought a legal opinion on any penalties for non-compliance since it is our intent to follow the law,” said Dr. Rick Cobb, Superintendent of Mid-Del Schools.
Angela Grunewald, Superintendent of Edmond Public Schools, weighed in.
“Defying the mask mandate outlined in Senate Bill 658 goes against our core beliefs of following state law and working with, rather than against, our elected officials to produce change,” she said.
Director of Communications for Mustang Public Schools John Wilson gave a response on behalf of the school district.
“We’ve consulted our district legal counsel and are following their recommendations on SB 658,” he said.
In response to our question, Oklahoma City Public Schools’ spokeswoman Crystal Raymond said, “While we strongly recommend masks, we have no plans to require them at this time.”
Stitt has gone on the record saying that the only way he will allow schools to mandate masks is if he declares a state of emergency.