Sunday, November 07, 2021

State leaders vow to help teachers fired by OKCPS over illegal mask mandate


OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 4, 2021) – Today, Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, Representative Rhonda Baker, and Senator Adam Pugh denounced the decision by the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education to fire six talented educators for making personal decisions about their own health.

In September, a District Judge made it clear that due to SB 658 schools could only mandate masks if they allowed exemptions for medical, religious, or personal reasons. Other Oklahoma districts have permitted students and teachers to opt-out of mandates, but OKCPS decided to put politics before education.

The decision comes when school leaders across the state are struggling to recruit and retain teachers. Just this week, staffing issues forced Tulsa Public Schools to eliminate the sixth grade at McClure Elementary School. Those students now must go straight to middle school, or transfer to another district.

These state leaders are committed to doing everything they can to get the six teachers let go by OKCPS back in the classroom where they belong.

Secretary of Education Ryan Walters:

“As a teacher, I understand it is now more important than ever to have a quality teacher in the classroom. OKCPS has shown their students can safely attend schools without masks or vaccines and it is my sincere hope that Superintendent McDaniel would value the personal freedoms of his employees and offer them the same respect he has shown other OKSPS families and return these teachers to the classroom.”

Representative Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon)

"During a time when we are already facing a teacher shortage, and we need teachers in the classroom, I do not believe it is a wise decision to fire teachers with a history of high evaluations. Over the interim we have held numerous studies focused on educational outcomes, the teacher shortage and learning loss. The common thread through all of these studies is that our students' success depends on in-person instruction given by quality educators.

The decision by the OKCPS Board of Education to terminate these teachers, without allowing for personal or religious exemptions, seems to be less about doing what is right for our kids and more about sending a message to other teachers who might feel the same way. This pandemic has been difficult for us all, especially our children, and we need to do whatever it takes to make sure they can get back to some semblance of normalcy in the classroom. Firing strong teachers is not the solution"

Senator Adam Pugh (R-Edmond):

“This isn’t about masks or their efficacy; instead, as some of the teachers have said themselves, it’s about the school’s blatant disregard of state law. At a time when our classrooms are in desperate need of quality educators, a school district fires six professionals for rightfully refusing to follow an illegal directive from the superintendent. These are the types of bad decisions that leave students, parents and teachers so frustrated and disappointed with school administrators and school boards.

In the end, this decision by our state’s largest school district has harmed classrooms full of kids by removing decades worth of experience.  While I remain optimistic that OKCPS will reverse their decision, I am confident that these six teachers will quickly find a school district that welcomes their talent and expertise back into the classroom.”


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