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Judge to put hold on Oklahoma school mask mandate ban

Kevin Stitt Capitol
Posted at 10:29 AM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 17:45:33-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — A judge approved a temporary injunction Wednesday that will put Oklahoma's ban on school mask mandates on hold.

Oklahoma County District Judge Natalie Mai granted the injunction against the law which took effect in July because the ban applied to public schools but not private schools.

Mai ruled that the hearing Wednesday likely would've ended without a challenge to the law if it applied to private schools as well.

The injunction won't go into effect until next week.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt reacted to the ruling as a win after the judge said any school mask requirement must have an opt-out option for parents under this law.

Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. Mary Clarke issued a statement saying the ruling is only the "first step" in helping local schools.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing; however, this is just a first step in ensuring our schools maintain local control and can choose the best path for their students, faculty and staff.

It’s important to remember that while we’ve seen how easily COVID can spread in schools, the virus doesn’t stay within the school walls. For each infected student, there is a risk of additional infections amongst their friends, family and the community.

We must all do our part to keep the community safe. This includes allowing our schools and businesses the freedom to develop mitigation efforts that can slow the spread of this terrible virus.”
Oklahoma State Medical Association President Mary Clarke, M.D.

Several Oklahoma school districts had already enacted differently-worded versions of mask requirements, most following the judge's opinion that they must provide an opt-out for parents.

Tulsa Public Schools released the following statement after Wednesday's ruling:

"We are aware of today’s court decision and will continue to understand the intersection between the law and our safety protocols. At Tulsa Public Schools, masks will be worn by all individuals—except those with approved exemptions. Our district remains confident that our mask protocol complies with the law. This virus is currently ravaging our state and inflicting immeasurable harm on people in our community. Our district will continue to do everything we are able to do to protect our students' and team members' health and keep our students learning in person.

Most importantly, we continue to work closely with the Tulsa Health Department and medical professional advisors to ensure that our layered safety practices stay tightly aligned with the most current guidance and research from health professionals. Visit www.tulsaschools.org/safety for more information about our COVID-19 safety practices."
Tulsa Public Schools

Below are statements received by 2 News Oklahoma from responding Green Country school districts and superintendents:

“I was pleased to hear about the injunction by Judge Mai regarding SB 658. I have felt from the beginning that Governor Stitt overreached when signing this bill which clearly usurps the authority of the local school board. They have the responsibility of making policies to protect and keep our students safe. This is just another example of politics getting in the way of doing what is best for the local school district.

In Muskogee, we provide a virtual option for students, so they have been afforded educational choice. Families that are concerned about wearing or not wearing a mask have the opportunity to enroll their students in our Roughers Innovations Academy."
Dr. Jarod Mendenhall, Superintendent Muskogee Public Schools
"After Judge Mai's ruling on SB 658 is issued, the Bartlesville Public School District's Pandemic Response Committee will study it to consider any potential changes to existing practices. BPSD already urges everyone to wear a mask in our schools given the current elevated risk levels."
Bartlesville Public Schools


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