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Oklahoma Charter School Enacts Mask Mandate, Defying State Law

Santa Fe South
Santa Fe South

Santa Fe South Public Charter School in Oklahoma City is implementing a mask mandate for all students and staff as of Thursday. The move is in direct violation of state law.

Senate Bill 658 prohibits school districts from requiring masks without an emergency order from Gov. Kevin Stitt. He hasn’t issued one yet, and isn't expected to.

Despite that, Santa Fe South’s superintendent Chris Brewster is putting a mask mandate in place. The move appears to be the first such mask mandate in the state following the ban.

"I think there are rare times that we have to consider civil disobedience, and
perhaps this is one of those times," said Brewster.

In a letter announcing the decision, Brewster said if it "keeps a single member of our community from suffering serious health issues or death, it is worth it a thousand times over."

Santa Fe South has been open for two weeks. In that time, 21 faculty and staff members have already had to isolate or quarantine because of positive tests or exposures. Additionally, at least two entire classrooms have had to quarantine andthere have been many COVID absences.

Brewster said the State Board of Education could revoke his superintendent’s license, or his school board could fire him. But, he’s willing to face those consequences.

"And I recognize both of those entities will have to determine if my decision was correct and act accordingly," said Brewster.

It is unclear at this time what the implications of breaking this law in Oklahoma will be for Santa Fe South and Brewster.

On Wednesday night, The Tulsa World reported Tulsa Public Schools' board discussed potential litigation against the state related to universal masking rules.

The board unanimously passed a resolution saying if state law allowed them
to implement a mask mandate, they would, and allowed legal counsel to
pursue a lawsuit that would allow universal masking.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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