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State Superintendent gives insight on changes to a law banning mask mandates

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:29 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - A temporary injunction was placed on the Senate Bill 658.

The law banned mask mandates at schools unless the governor declared a state of emergency.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was pleased with the Oklahoma County District Judge’s ruling.

She said it gives superintendents the power to put mask mandates in place; if they see COVID cases getting out of control in their district.

The judge made the temporary decision Wednesday because the law banned mask mandates within public schools but made no mention of private schools.

“That was a failure of equal protection, and that the law should equally apply to all children, regardless of where they go to school, regardless of what their zip code is,” Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister said Superintendents know what’s best for their students, staff, and community.

They need ways to ensure their safety, and Hofmeister said this injunction is a step in the right direction.

“I talked with one superintendent, who said, “I just need to be able to handle these outbreaks. If we need to have a mask mandate requirement for the high school for the next two weeks or the next three weeks to get COVID under control, I want to be able to do that. And this now will allow that kind of local strategy to help protect kids and hopefully fewer exposures, which means fewer kids in quarantine, and less disruption to learning,” Hofmeister said.

Districts must offer an opt-out option for parents if their child has a medical condition or for any other reason.

Hofmeister said she’s glad this temporary decision is in place right now as she already had a number of worries going into this school year.

“This year, we know 25-percent of the positive cases in Oklahoma are pediatric children from the age of five to seventeen. You can imagine what that means within schools and classrooms. A lot of families have been impacted by this disruption. Of course, we want to see our kids in person and learning together. We want though to be able to keep them safe, and get through this pandemic together,” Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister said people should take this ongoing crisis seriously.

“If not, then the delta variant is free to spread very quickly, and it could affect someone who has a weak immune system to fight that, and it could cause serious injury. We have 40 to 65 children in the hospitals since school has started. This is something we should all be concerned about. We have also had a student die, and other personnel that works in schools, teachers, but this is something we all want to prevent, and I know everybody in Oklahoma wants to do their part,” Hofmeister said.

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