The Oklahoma City Public Schools board voted unanimously last Wednesday to fire six teachers who refused to comply with the district's mask requirement for schools.
On Friday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt posted a video, criticizing Oklahoma City Public Schools for having the "audacity" to fire six teachers during a staffing shortage because they refused to wear face masks in school, Fox News reported.
"Oklahoma City public school district had the audacity to fire six talented teachers," the Republican governor said in a video posted Friday. "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.
"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-6-R2 on Aug. 13, requiring that masks be worn on school property, in school vehicles, and during school functions, Oklahoma News 4 KFOR reported.
School district officials announced on Aug. 17 that six employees were placed on administrative leave for refusing to comply with the face mask requirement.
The Board of Education conducted due process hearings for the six OKCPS (Oklahoma City Public Schools) educators. "Since these employees continue to refuse to follow a reasonable directive over a law that is unsettled, OKCPS board members voted unanimously to move forward with termination of these six teachers," according to Oklahoma News 4 KFOR.
A lawyer for five of the teachers held a news conference Thursday to announce that they are fighting back, reported ABC affiliate KOCO News 5. The lawyer said the matter is not a political or anti-mask fight, but about the rule of law.
Stitt and the teachers' lawyer say McDaniel broke Senate Bill 658, which prohibits school boards from mandating masks, COVID-19 vaccinations, or vaccine passports.
The superintendent maintains that the law does not apply to him because he's not part of the board.
Stitt urged McDaniel to rehire the teachers, or for other superintendents to offer the fired teachers employment.
"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."
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