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Standridge sends letter to Attorney General requesting schools follow established guidelines for mask usage and inform parents of potential harms

Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, sent a letter to Attorney General John O’Connor Thursday requesting he inform local school boards and administrators adopting mask mandates to implement them according to established guidelines and provide those and any potential harms to parents.

Standridge said he understands that while a recent court decision temporarily granted schools the ability to enforce mask mandates with an opt-out option, many parents will trust the schools to make the best decision for the well-being of their children and send them to school with masks, which could pose potential risks and harms according to long established guidelines.

“Anyone enforcing a mask mandate should only do so according to established guidelines and provide those to parents, along with any potential concerns or dangers of the face covering – a medical device,” Standridge said. “The World Health Organization (WHO) published well-established guidelines in June of 2020 with advice for utilizing masks during COVID-19, and at the very least, we should adopt these parameters in our schools to ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma’s children.”

In the letter, Standridge shared guidance from the aforementioned WHO study related to long-term mask usage as well as common sense methods on how these standards can be implemented in schools. This includes that masks should be changed when wet, soiled or damaged, or if the mask is touched, adjusted or removed from the face for any reason.

Some of the potential harms and risks included in the guidelines Standridge said should be shared with parents when adopting mask mandates are:

  • Mask contamination due to the manipulation of masks by contaminated hands – a significant concern for children;
  • Self-contamination that can occur if masks are not changed when wet, soiled or damaged;
  • Possible development of facial lesions, irritant dermatitis, or worsening acne when a mask is used frequently or for long hours, a particular concern for teenagers with the potential of long-term acne scarring; and
  • False sense of security, which can lead to the relaxing of other well-recognized preventative measures like frequent hand-washing, social distancing and ventilation.

Standridge also noted the WHO study recognized that children may be unable to properly use a mask. Standridge adds that if a school does not employ mask monitors to help students when a child’s mask, a medical device, becomes contaminated, it might result in masks being more harmful than not wearing one.  

“Not implementing sound guidelines on mask usage and sharing the potential risks and harms of wearing a mask with parents could lead to legal liability for school districts if it’s determined a student is injured as a result of improper usage,” Standridge said. “For the safety of our children in school, it’s imperative those handing out these mandates do so responsibly according to well-established guidelines, and provide all pertinent information to parents and guardians so informed decisions can be made. I encourage parents across the state to study all of the benefits versus harms of wearing a mask, and even take legal action if necessary to protect your children from the after-effects of harmful medical device mandates.”

The letter was also sent to Governor Kevin Stitt, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Oklahoma State School Boards Association President Mike Ray.