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Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt slammed Oklahoma City Public Schools for “having the audacity” to fire six teachers during a staffing shortage because they refused to wear face masks.
“Oklahoma City public school district had the audacity to fire six talented teachers. They were fired because they wouldn’t follow an illegal mask mandate issued by their superintendent. This is preposterous, especially in a time when talented teachers are needed more than ever,” Stitt said in a video on the matter he posted Friday.
“Let me be clear: This is about a school district not following state law. This isn’t a debate about masks.These teachers even said they’d be willing to come back to class and wear a mask. But the superintendent Sean McDaniel wanted to fire them to make a point.”
Stitt signed a bill in May prohibiting school boards from implementing face mask mandates. McDaniel, however, implemented Administrative Regulation C-26-R2 on Aug. 13, which requires masks be worn on school property, in school vehicles, and during school functions, KFOR reported.
OKCPS’ face mask requirement did not violate Stitt’s May bill prohibiting such a requirement because McDaniel implemented the measure, not the school board.
FILE – In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt gestures during a news conference in Oklahoma City. Stitt on Thursday, Jan.23, 2020, banned state-funded travel to the state of California, saying it’s in response to similar bans California has put in place on travel to the Sooner State. The first-term Republican issued an executive order that prohibits all non-essential travel by state employees to California, with exceptions for business recruiting trips, college sports games and trips by schools to participate in programs.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
“In the middle of a teacher shortage, Oklahoma City Public Schools fired six talented teachers because they wouldn’t follow an illegal order,” Stitt said in the caption of a tweet that was accompanied by the video. “These are the types of misguided decisions that are leaving many parents across the country so frustrated with their local schools!”
The six district employees were put on administrative leave on Aug. 17 over the policy, and the school board voted unanimously to terminate the teachers.
“When I became aware it was clear that these teachers were unwilling to take this next step to wear a mask knowing that it would reduce the risk of exposure to COVID, that’s what prompted me to say, ‘You have violated the standards of performance and conduct of teachers,’” McDaniel told the board on Wednesday night, recommending the teachers be fired.
FILE – In this Feb. 11, 2021 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. Gov. Stitt is signing three anti-abortion bills into law. Stitt announced on Twitter Monday, April 26, 2021, that he’d signed bills requiring physicians who perform abortions to be certified in obstetrics, adding performing abortions to the list of unprofessional conduct by doctors and prohibiting abortions of a fetal heartbeat is detected. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)
One of the fired teachers spoke at the board meeting and said the OKCPS’ requirement “knowingly” violates Oklahoma law.
“You do not have the authority to make rules and regulations which knowingly violate Oklahoma state law and then impose these rules and regulations on staff under threat of termination for refusal to comply,” said Jason Widener, one of the teachers speaking to the board.
Public health experts say the same mitigation measures, like mask use, proper distancing, hand hygiene and prompt, widespread vaccination will help protect against variant strains of the virus. (iStock)
Stitt called on McDaniel to rehire the teachers, or for other superintendents to offer the fired teachers jobs.
“I hope that Sean McDaniel can look the teachers that he fired in the eye and say that he wears a mask everywhere he goes,” Stitt said. “It’s not too late to fix this. Sean McDaniel should bring these teachers back to the classroom as soon as possible. If not, I’m calling on other superintendents across the state to do the right thing. Do what’s best for your students, hire these talented teachers in your district.”
OKCPS did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment if it plans to rehire the teachers after Stitt’s video statement.
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