State Watch

Oklahoma faces lawsuit over ban on mask mandates for schools

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) participates in a White House roundtable with then-President Trump in 2020
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Oklahoma is facing a lawsuit from parents and a medical association over the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools.

The lawsuit filed Thursday by the Oklahoma State Medical Association seeks to stop the state from enforcing Senate Bill 658, which prevents state schools and colleges from adopting mask or vaccination mandates.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed the measure into law in late May, at the same time he issued an executive order barring state agencies from instituting similar requirements for people entering their buildings. 

The Hill has reached out to Stitt’s office for comment.

The plaintiffs allege that the law is a “violation of Oklahoma children’s rights to a free education in a safe environment,” a violation of the Oklahoma State Constitution.

If the law is enforced, the suit alleges that “many children will be deprived of this liberty without being afforded Due Process of Law, in that there is not rational basis for depriving them of the opportunity to learn in a classroom where feasible mitigation measures are being used — the same measures that are prohibited by Senate Bill 658.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, Oklahoma State Medical Association President Mary Clarke said the group is “glad to sign on to the lawsuit,” adding that it was “about public health and common sense.”

“This is not a political stance; it is about public health and common sense. If schools can send students home for a lice infection, they should have the latitude and ability to issue a mask mandate,” Clarke said.

The suit is the latest as school districts and local governments challenge orders and laws in GOP-led states banning mask and vaccine mandates.

In Texas, Dallas and Bexar counties are challenging an executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) banning mask mandates.

Abbott has filed a suit against Dallas County after it successfully blocked the order and imposed its own mask mandate.

In addition, several school districts in Florida have imposed mask mandates, defying an order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who has threatened to withhold school officials’ salary should they require face coverings. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Biden administration was looking to support schools that defy the ban.

Tags Jen Psaki Ron DeSantis

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