WATCH: Oklahoma Secretary of Education says it’s outrageous six teachers fired over masks during staffing shortage
The Oklahoma secretary of education told Fox News it’s “outrageous” that six teachers were fired in Oklahoma amid a staffing shortage for not complying with a school’s mask policy.
“In the middle of a teacher shortage to take this kind of extreme measure on teachers that haven’t been shown to be low quality…we feel like it’s outrageous,” Secretary Ryan Walters said.
The Oklahoma City Public School Board voted unanimously last week to fire six teachers after they refused to follow the school’s mask mandate intended to protect staff and students against COVID-19.
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill in May prohibiting school boards from implementing face mask mandates. But Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel argues that the mandate was issued by his office, not the school board, so it is not in violation of the law.
In this Feb. 11, 2021 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
“At this point in time, attracting and retaining teachers has been a major issue in the state of Oklahoma and here we see a district fire six teachers who were acting in accordance with state law,” Secretary Walters told Fox News.
Walters said schools should be ensuring there’s a high quality teacher in the classroom “rather than running teachers off because of some political statement a superintendents trying to make.”
Superintendent McDaniel recommended the firings in August. McDaniel said the teachers “crossed what I believe to be statutory lines and expectations for our educators.”
“When I became aware clearly that these teachers were unwilling to do that, 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 they have violated the standards of performance and conduct of teaching,” McDaniel told the board.
Close-up of a collection of disposable, single-use face masks.
Walters said the firings send the wrong message to teachers.
“I hear from teachers all the time, they don’t feel valued and they’re being micromanaged. To me, that’s the message being sent here,” Walters added.
A recent Oklahoma Education Association poll showed 15% of educators they surveyed are currently looking for another job outside the profession.
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