The Oklahoma House passed a bill on Wednesday, banning the mask mandate in public schools and prohibiting forcing students to get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines.
The state House passed the bill, SB 658, by 76-18 and sent the bill to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday. The state Senate had passed the bill by 38-8 a day earlier.
“For the sake of children throughout the state, I’m glad this bill is one step closer to becoming law,” GOP senator Rob Standridge said in a statement. “With this legislation, vaccine passports for Oklahoma students will not exist.”
Standridge is also one of the authors of the bill.
SB 658 (pdf) prohibits boards of education of all public school districts and technology center school districts—including those of higher education—from requiring vaccination against COVID-19 as “a condition of admittance to or attendance of the school or institution,” nor could they require vaccine passports or similar documentation as a condition either.
But schools, public or private, still need to enforce the current immunizations requirement, such as vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles, and others.
Standridge explained during the session that the COVID-19 vaccine is different because it’s “still under emergency use authorization,” News9 reported.
SB658 further forbids implementing a mask mandate for students who haven’t taken COVID-19 vaccines.
The exceptions are when the governor declares an emergency or after the boards of education consult with their local county health department. But the mask mandate must be reconsidered at each regularly scheduled board meeting.
The banning of mask mandate and COVID-19 vaccine requirements does not apply to any public or private healthcare setting, such as a hospital in a medical university.
Democratic lawmakers oppose this bill.
“This legislation creates a barrier to local control that prevents locally elected school boards from being able to fully protect their students as they and their constituents see fit,” state representative Andy Fugate said in a news release. “This is a clear government overreach meant to strip away the personal freedom of Oklahomans wanting to protect their communities.”
“Should the force of government be used to force citizens to do something they don’t want to do, or should it be used to empower the rights of citizens,” House GOP representative Kevin West expressed in a different view. Kevin is also one of the authors of the bill.
“This protects a student’s and a parent’s right to choose for themselves whether a vaccination is appropriate for them for their own personal health reasons or their religious or personal beliefs. This disallows discrimination against students and parents that choose to be exempt from such vaccinations,” West added.
Texas and Iowa banned the mask mandate in schools and local governments last week. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also said early this month that schools will drop mask mandates for the upcoming school year. A number of states have banned vaccine passports statewide, either through executive orders or legislation.
SB658 will take effect on July 1 if Stitt signs it into law.
Stitt’s office didn’t immediately respond to The Epoch Times’s question of whether he will sign the bill.
The Republicans have the supermajority in both chambers to override the governor’s veto.