State senators are expected to consider a bill on COVID-19 school restrictions.
Senate Bill 658 would keep school districts from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for grade school to college students, while making it more difficult for schools to put mask mandates into place.
"If the school board is going to try to do some mandate, they must 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 has to be a reason and specific purpose behind what they are trying to accomplish," state Senator Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said.
Districts would be required to go through their local county health department and meet criteria before creating a mask mandate.
Before enacting a mask mandate, the district would have to:
Joe Dorman with The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy thinks 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 the parents as they take the kids home," Dorman said.
As for vaccinations, the bill said schools cannot make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory and must provide exemptions.
It also said districts cannot discriminate against children who have not been vaccinated by requiring masks just for them.
The state health department said they will not mandate kids to get the vaccine before returning to school.
The Oklahoma Republican Party said it supports this legislation.