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Will Any Oklahoma School Districts Defy State Law By Requiring Masks?

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Some district superintendents in Texas have announced they will defy their governor’s executive order and require masks in their classrooms.

In the past week, superintendents of Dallas and Austin public schools have announced they will require masks on campus, despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order banning the practice. Those who don't adhere can incur fines up to $1,000.

Oklahoma took stronger action than Texas in banning mask mandates in schools, passing Senate Bill 658 this spring. It statutorily bans the mandates without an emergency declaration from the governor.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has indicated no intention to declare such an order.

Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education has called a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss possible litigation against the state and governor regarding the mask mandate ban imposed by SB 658.

Outside that, there doesn't seem to be an appetite for defying the law.

During a briefing with the state’s medical community on Tuesday afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said officials should prioritize vaccination efforts. She said there is support for local officials who are urging masks, but not necessarily for requiring them.

"First of all, we do have to abide by the law, so we're doing everything we can right now to support the districts that are framing this as an expectation of the students and staff," she said.

Hofmeister estimated there are 645,000 unvaccinated school children in Oklahoma.

Children under the age of 12 cannot get the vaccine yet and only 15.1 percent of Oklahoma children between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, according to the latest state epidemiology report.

Neither Stitt nor the Oklahoma State Department of Health have held a press conference on the pandemic in more than one month. As of Tuesday, Oklahoma is averaging more than 2,000 new infections per day — levels not seen in the state since early February.

Vaccines are available through many doctors and pharmacies, or you can use the state's appointment portal at vaccinate.ok.gov or the federal vaccine locator at vaccinefinder.org.

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