OKLAHOMA CITY — House Democrats have filed legislation to reverse Senate Bill 658, which prevents school boards from implementing life-saving COVID protection measures.
The Safe at School Act (House Bill 2967), authored by Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, would restore local control for communities across Oklahoma by repealing parts of SB658.
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“Senate Bill 658 cripples the ability of local school districts to act quickly when needed,” Provenzano said.
“Needs across Oklahoma are different, and schools need to be able to make decisions about safety based on local data rather than waiting for the Governor to declare a state of emergency. I’ve been contacted by more parents than I can count asking how to keep their kids safe at school when they return. So many of us have witnessed the awful reality of Covid up close and personal. Enough is enough. It is time to protect our children.”
Several Democrats have joined Provenzano to be co-authors on HB2967 including: Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC, Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, and Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa.
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“We now have a vehicle to save lives by overturning this short-sighted law,” Nichols said. “If the leadership in the House and Senate now agree that SB658 will have a devastating impact on Oklahoma children and educators, we can make this right for our communities and return local control.”
In addition to K-12 education, SB658 affects Oklahoma’s higher education institutions’ ability to protect students.
“I’m concerned for our higher-ed students,” Ranson said. “Stillwater hosts a large population of college-aged students, and Senate Bill 658 bans colleges, such as OSU, from instituting mandatory health safety protocols. Stillwater has the potential of being the epicenter to a super spreader event.”
Democrats understand that it may seem improbable that legislation signed last session would be overturned in a special session. However, hope from across the state border has encouraged Democrats to keep pushing.
“If Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson can change his mind in order to save lives, surely Oklahoma’s elected leaders can do the same,” Fugate said. “Now is not the time to dig our heels into highly political positions. We need to work together to empower local leaders to do what is best for our children.”