OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma legislators could be in the process of passing a law that would restrict schools from forcing students to wear masks and requiring vaccinations. Opponents say why not let localities decide.
As the school year comes to an end, some legislators at the State Capitol say they are looking forward to what school COVID precautions will look like next year. Opponents to statewide COVID laws say decisions should be more about local control.
“A lot of these things were done understandably trying to get through the pandemic, but now that we are coming out the other side, we need to be a little bit more pragmatic, a little bit more thoughtful on what we require of parents and children,” said Sen. Rob Standridge.
The Republican from Norman is talking about his latest version of Senate Bill 658. The bill would stop schools from mandating vaccinations for students to attend, sometime referred to as vaccine passports. It also stops schools kindergarten through college from requiring that only non-vaccinated people wear masks. Standridge says that policy was recently put in place by the University of Oklahoma.
“How do you prove? Do you wear a sticker on your shirt, like ‘I voted’? That’s a HIPAA violation in my mind,” said Standridge.
But opponents say the bill is trying to fix problems that aren’t happening in Oklahoma schools currently.
“Do you have a specific example for maybe a K-12 school that is doing that next school year?” said Sen. JJ Dossett of Owasso.
Some also worried that the bill is too broad and the state should let policies be decided by the individual school districts.
“Why are we getting involved in this when school districts, local governments are deciding one way or another what their communities desire,” said Dossett.
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Standridge says he’s in favor of local control in some cases but also said, “I also believe in creating guard rails to keep them where the majority of citizens want them.”
The bill does allow local districts to implement mask mandates for all students after consultation with the local health department, and that mandate must be up for debate at each board meeting.
“Certainly we think it’s important for local school districts to be able to settle a lot of their own policy, but again, in this particular bill we just need to read the language. I wanna make sure there are not unintended consequences,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent.
KFOR talked to the Oklahoma Education Association. They say they are not aware of any vaccination passport rules planned for K-12 in Oklahoma. Once again, that bill passed the State Senate, now its on to the house to act on before the end of the week.