OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Even though parents can opt-out their children from wearing masks in Oklahoma City Public Schools, a small fraction – less than half of one percent – have turned in the form so far.
OKCPS has already seen one student death due to COVID complications. On August 19 8th Grade student Clarence Wayne Johnson III died.
The requirements are low for opting out. The request can be made because of “medical or religious or strong personal reasons.”
According to OKCPS Director of Communications Courtney Morton, as of Thursday at noon, 133 out of 31,000 students have been opted out by parents or guardians. Students who are authorized or 18 and above can sign the form themselves.
Only one application has been denied.
“Families still have until September 10 to get online and fill out the opt-out form,” said Morton.
The low numbers suggest that most parents, guardians, and students in the district are willing to wear masks for the sake of their health.
The district website has a consent form in both English and Spanish that will allow parents or legal guardians to submit their desire to opt their child out of the mask requirement.
The form reads,
“If a parent/legal guardian or eligible student indicates that compliance with mask use is not possible due to medical or religious or strong personal reasons, the parent, legal guardian, or eligible student may request an exemption in writing.”
Who may sign: “a parent, guardian, legal custodian, foster care provider, student 18 years of age or older, or student otherwise authorized to provide consent.”
Challenging state law
The district caused a stir earlier in August when Superintendent Sean McDaniel instituted a mask mandate in spite of SB 658 signed into law by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt prohibiting public school boards from issuing mask or vaccine mandates.
McDaniel and other districts since, argued that the law prohibits school boards from passing mask mandate requirements but says nothing about administrative orders like the one he gave.
He said that state law also required him to do all he could to protect the health and welfare of the district’s students and masks have been shown to lessen the possibility of catching or transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19.
Legislators who pushed the bill strongly objected anyway accusing the district of a “blatant violation of the law.”
Not the first
However, OKCPS was not the first in the OKC metro to require masks even though legislators tried to make it illegal.
Chris Brewster, superintendent of Santa Fe South Schools, a charter school, was the first to defy the Legislature and Stitt by issuing a mask requirement.
“I pledge to you that I will strive to only make decisions that are based on the recommendations of healthcare officials and in line with the science that directs these decisions,” Brewster wrote to families in the communication explaining the mask requirement.
“We have immunocompromised students and staff whose normal physical conditions make them highly susceptible to things like COVID, in particular, the damage that COVID could do to some of these kiddos,” he Brewster told Free Press earlier in August.
While some legislators made strong public statements about the work-around by superintendents, no legal action has taken place against the mandates so far.
Last Updated August 26, 2021, 1:25 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor