Senate Bill 658 - masks in schools and House Bill 1775 - teaching aspects of race
Measure protecting health choice signed into law Senate Bill 658, which will greatly restrict mask mandates and forbid COVID vaccine passports in educational institutions, has been signed into law. The measure was authored by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman. “In this post-pandemic era, it is time to look back and determine what we did right and what we did not so right,” Standridge said. “Masking children should not be an easily taken step, especially when many enforcing the mandate were often not wearing masks themselves. Therefore, this legislation raises the bar on when schools can force students to wear masks. Most importantly, schools cannot force unvaccinated children to wear masks. Additionally, students should not be forced to get the COVID vaccine to enroll or attend school. Parents should have the ultimate decision in their children’s healthcare needs, and for the sake of parents and children throughout our state, I am proud to have gotten this legislation across the finish line.” The measure will: Disallow any medical device mandates, including masks, unless there is a declared state of emergency; Prohibit any education institution in Oklahoma to require a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine passport to enroll or attend; Prohibit mask mandates for unvaccinated students; Require schools to post on their website vaccine options for parents; Require school boards to vote on any medical device mandates, including masks, at each board meeting; Require any mandate to be specific on which types of masks and the exact purpose they are being mandated; and Require school boards to consult with their local county health department before implementing any medical device or mask mandate. Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, was the House principal author. “This bill is about protecting a student’s right to attend public school in person even if that student or their parent decide the COVID-19 vaccine is not the right choice for them,” West said. “This also will protect unvaccinated students from being forced to wear masks when mask mandates do not apply to all. 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?" The measure will go into effect on July 1, with full implementation ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.
NAACP POSITION ON MASK WEARING?
The city does not have such an ordinance prohibiting the wearing of a mask. In fact, I support the wearing of nonsurgical mask or face covering when in public during the COVID-19 pandemic period.” As a result of the two men filling a complaint, Chief Wells told The Washington Post that an internal investigation of the incident has begun with the assistance of the local NAACP branch. Georgia Senator, Nikema Williams, wrote a letter to the state’s governor urging him to temporarily suspend the mask laws. She explains why in her letter, stating that her husband, who is African American, 6’3”, and weighs 300 pounds: “was telling [her] how uncomfortable it was to wear a mask in stores because folks get intimidated and look at him like he’s up to no good.” Black men have also experienced racial profiling when not wearing a mask. In April of 2020, a video from Philadelphia filmed a Black man being removed with force by four police officers one day after the city’s transportation authority required all riders of buses, trolleys, and trains to wear face coverings. After the incident, the transportation authority made an announcement deeming face coverings no longer required for riders. Therefore, it has been found that both Black men who follow and do not follow the CDC recommendation to wear a face covering have experienced episodes of harassment. Blacks are already at an increased risk of contracting the virus, but now Black men in particular are faced with the dilemma to wear a mask to save their lives from either racial profiling or the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Like several senators, the NAACP has also made a statement urging states to indefinitely stop their mask laws. Marc Banks, the NAACP’s national press secretary, stated: “No person should be fearful of engaging in lifesaving measures due to racialism.” Melanye Price is a political science professor at Texas’ Prairie View A&M University. She tells The New York Times that the well-intentioned recommendation to wear masks or bandanas actually can put African Americans at greater risk of racial profiling. According to Kevin Gaines, a professor of civil rights and social justice at the University of Virginia, Black men are already being profiled by the police on a regular basis, but wearing masks heightens such risks of profiling. The initial assumption is not made that Black men are wearing masks to protect themselves and those around them from the threat of the virus. However, in contrast, it is assumed that they are engaging in some type of ill will like stealing or other crimes. As a result of the risks of racial profiling, some Black men have changed their style of dress in an effort to appear less threatening. STAT correspondent Usha Lee McFarling reports that Black men have attempted to “tone down their appearance to lower suspicion.” Examples of such “toning down” comes in the form of wearing college T-shirts and “dressing like prospects, not suspects.” This has even been found in their choice of mask colors and patterns, choosing floral prints or plain white masks over others. Vickie Mays, a professor of heath policy and management at UCLA, has been attempting to track situations in which Black men wearing masks have suffered harassment. Mays tells STAT that Black men should wear masks despite the risk of racial profiling in order to, foremost, protect their health. However, she suggests that such masks not be dark in color or “ominous looking.” Instead, she suggests they be bright in color or have traditional African prints. Mays also urges health officials to swiftly procure professionally-made masks for Black communities just as they would any other commodity like food or water as this population has been reportedly experiencing greater rates of COVID-19 infection than non-minority groups.