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Oklahoma Democrats file legislation to drop mask mandate ban at schools

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 17:01:42-04

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma House Democrats filed legislation Monday in an attempt to reverse a law banning schools in the state from mandating masks.

House Bill 2967, or the "Safe at School Act," would repeal parts of Senate Bill 658 which stopped schools from requiring masks unless the state is in a state of emergency.

“Senate Bill 658 cripples the ability of local school districts to act quickly when needed,” said Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa), author of the bill.

“Needs across Oklahoma are different, and schools need to be able to make decisions about safety based on local data rather than waiting for the Governor to declare a state of emergency," she said.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has held firm on his stance to not declare a new state of emergency despite rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.

Stitt has asked for parents to make the choice to have their children mask up in schools, or not, based on personal responsibility.

Arkansas recently rolled back a similar ban on mask mandates after a county judge blocked the law.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed regret over the law as COVID-19 numbers jumped in his state.

Stitt's office told 2 News Oklahoma that he is "not concerned about court rulings from other states that do not affect Oklahoma."

House Bill 2967 is unlikely to pass through the House, but Democrats say they are hopeful for some kind of challenge following the Arkansas ruling.

“If Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson can change his mind in order to save lives, surely Oklahoma’s elected leaders can do the same,” Rep. Andy Fugate, (D-Del City) said.

“Now is not the time to dig our heels into highly political positions. We need to work together to empower local leaders to do what is best for our children."

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