Friday, November 12th 2021, 9:05 pm
Oklahoma Attorney General, John O’Connor, said Tulsa Public Schools is violating state law with its process for families to request mask exemptions.
The AG’s office sent the TPS Board of Education a letter on September 30 and said it is still getting complaints from families about the district. The district told News On 6 it has not denied any exemption requests, and it is confident in its process.
Tulsa Public Schools students requesting a mask exemption are asked to fill out one of two forms for either medical or academic, social or emotional exemptions. Additionally, parents must turn the form in person or get it notarized, then wait to hear back from the district for approval, according to TPS policy.
O'Connor said all these steps are violating state law.
"The requirement is simply that it be in writing and that it makes a request,” explained O’Connor. “It could be written on the side of an envelope and signed by a parent or guardian, and then it has to be honored."
In the Sept. 30 letter from the AG’s office to the TPS board, O’Connor gave at least one example in which a parent was denied a request.
Melissa Remington said she felt the district's forms were invasive, so she sent a letter citing personal reasons for her children. She said her request was approved a month later but feels families still must jump through hoops.
“We still have parents that are still calling us on a daily basis to say, 'Hey, can you help me with getting an exemption?'" explained Remington.
Supt. Dr. Deborah Gist said the district has approved 153 exemptions, and that O’Connor’s concerns are baffling.
"There's nothing in the statute that talks about procedures or how to go about doing this, so without any guidance from the state, we put in place a process that we're confident was accessible for families and has worked," said Gist.
Gist said the district is confident in its policy, but O’Connor said he is looking into the next step.
Gist also said she plans to announce some changes to the district's safety practices and mask expectations next week.
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