Oklahoma School Mask Ban Law Is Under Federal Scrutiny

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 18, 2020 file photo, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister answers a question at the Central Oklahoma PPE distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. Hoffmeister said, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021,  districts in the state should have "the autonomy" to enact policies requiring masks, which is banned by state law. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 18, 2020 file photo, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister answers a question at the Central Oklahoma PPE distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. Hoffmeister said, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, districts in the state should have "the autonomy" to enact policies requiring masks, which is banned by state law. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s school districts should have “the autonomy” to enact mask requirements, which are banned by state law, according to the state's superintendent of schools.

“School districts deserve the autonomy to enact policies that protect our schoolchildren and staff from COVID exposure and infection,” Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement Wednesday.

Hofmeister's comments came after U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in letters to her and Gov. Kevin Stitt that the ban may violate the American Rescue Plan that provided $123 billion to the nation’s schools to help them return to the classroom.

Cardona sent similar letters to several other states with similar mask bans.

Stitt’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. A spokesperson for Stitt told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that the governor had not yet seen the letter.

Hofmeister, whose recommendation for a statewide mask mandate in schools was rejected in July 2020 in a 4-3 vote by the state Board of Education, said vaccinations and mask wearing are key to keeping schools open for in-person classes.

“I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said those closest to the problem are the ones best suited to address it," Hofmeister said.