FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 30, 2021
Oklahoma Disability Law Center Praises OCR’s Prompt Investigation into Concerns Oklahoma’s Restrictions on School Mask Mandates May Be Preventing Schools from Meeting Their Legal Obligations to Students with Disabilities.
Oklahoma Disability Law Center (ODLC) is pleased with the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) prompt response to concerns Oklahoma’s current prohibition on School Mask Mandates is preventing Oklahoma schools from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities, who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as required by law.
ODLC currently represents several Oklahoma students who have been denied accommodations necessary to allow them to safely attend school given their individual health conditions which place them at greater risk of severe illness should they contract COVID-19. School Districts are citing Oklahoma’s prohibition on school mask mandates as the reason for denying these students’ requests for accommodation of appropriate mitigation measures to be put in place, despite the fact the Oklahoma law is in direct conflict with federal anti-discrimination laws.
“We have recently filed OCR complaints against both individual school districts as well as the Oklahoma State Department of Education for policies that prevent simple mitigation measures like masking in school buildings, which we believe are denying high-risk students access to a free and appropriate public education. We are pleased that OCR has responded quickly and we intend to continue to take whatever legal steps necessary to ensure the rights of these high-risk students to safe and equitable access to education in Oklahoma are enforced,” said Brian Wilkerson, ODLC’s Director of Litigation and Legal Services.
ODLC is currently in the process of filing additional federal complaints with regards to Oklahoma school districts refusing to enforce mask mandates on school buses as required by the CDC Order mandating masks be worn on public transportation including school buses. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/face-masks-public-transportation.html
# # #
Oklahoma Disability Law Center Inc. is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. Its mission is to protect, promote and expand the rights of people with disabilities.