Oklahoma Legislators are debating bills that set the standards for mask requirements and vaccinations.
Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 658 would require the school boards to present evidence to their local health department before they put a mask mandate in place. It also requires districts to make parents aware of vaccine exemptions.
Oklahoma State Senator R-Nathan Dahm Bill Co-sponsor said, “If the school board is going to try to do some sort of a mandate, they must actually visit with the health department for that area and they have to provide the reasoning and the purpose for that mandate. They can’t just do it just because there actually has to be a reason and specific purpose behind what they are trying to accomplish."
Joe Dorman with The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy believes that this requirement makes it difficult for schools to keep people safe.
"It puts more hoops in place during a pandemic preventing the schools from being able to do what they need to do as far as keeping not only the students safe but the teachers and personnel and maybe even that parents as they take the kids home," Dorman said.
He also said another concern is that as it stands right now, he believes the bill lacks balance.
“If you are going to talk about the bad parts of this as far as making it harder to get a vaccination and wear a mask, we should also have the positive of why they are needed,” he said.
Dorman said It also gives people the opportunity to advocate against masks.
“This bill also puts in place the opportunity for different individuals to come and present different studies as to why masks are not needed. So it is leaning the bias toward anti-masking,” he said.
Dahm argues they want parents to know all their options.
“It is just saying that parents have to be fully informed school districts can’t only give them part of the law," he said, "The original version of the bill was dealing with vaccinations. If a school district is going to notify parents about vaccinations they actually have to give them all of the information. So what we were seeing was that some school districts were misleading parents and telling them that they had to be fully vaccinated and they were leaving out the part of the law that says you can get an exemption.”
Dorman said he knows people are tired of mask mandates but believes now is not the time to let up.
“We understand that a lot of people are tired of masking. They are tired of the recommendations. They are afraid of the vaccinations in some cases, but we can't afford to do things like this in the middle of a pandemic,” Dorman said.
He suggests that if you have a concern about this bill or any others making their way through the Oklahoma State Legislature, you call your local State Senator to voice your concerns.
Click here to read the latest version of the bill.