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Feds send letter to Gov. Stitt criticizing Oklahoma mask mandate law

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 16:23:32-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona sent a letter to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister on Wednesday criticizing the state's law on masks.

Senate Bill 658 took effect on July 1, banning mask mandates from being put in place in Oklahoma schools unless the governor declares a state of emergency.

Cardona said in the letter that the mask mandate ban may violate the American Rescue Plan that provided $123 billion to the nation’s schools to help them return to the classroom.

"We are aware that Oklahoma has enacted a State law prohibiting local educational agencies (LEAs) from adopting requirements for the universal wearing of masks," Cardona says.

"This State level action against science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 appears to restrict the development of local health and safety policies and is at odds with the school district planning process embodied in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department’s) interim final requirements."

Hofmeister maintained her position against the law in response to Cardona's letter.

“I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said those closest to the problem are the ones best suited to address it,” Hofmeister says.

“School districts deserve the autonomy to enact policies that protect our schoolchildren and staff from COVID exposure and infection."

Some school districts, including Oklahoma City Public Schools, have put mandates in place despite the state law.

Stitt didn't publicly show displeasure with any announced mandates until Cherokee County district Hulbert Public Schools announced a mask requirement on Thursday.

MORE >>> Small Oklahoma school districts begin closures, shifts to distance learning as COVID-19 cases surge

“It is disappointing that one school district has chosen to openly violate a state law that was supported by 80 percent of the Legislature. The goal of SB658 was to ensure every student in Oklahoma could go to school in person and parents retained the fundamental right to make health care decisions for their children. To be clear, no parent is banned from sending their child to school with a mask and no school may mandate masks or vaccines. I will always stand up for parents’ right to decide what is best for their child."
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

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