After a year of distance learning, blended learning, social distancing in schools, and mask mandates, furious parents of Edmond Public School students are set to descend upon the Edmond School Board meeting next Monday to demand an end of the school district’s mask mandate policy for teachers and students.
Chris Theissen, the event’s organizer and a frequent protester at school board meetings over the last year, confirmed the details with Ignite Liberty yesterday during an exclusive interview. Theissen has planned this event in coordination with Dr. Jim Meehan, the Tulsa physician who gained notoriety for suing the city of Tulsa last year over their mask mandate.
Theissen reached out to Meehan shortly after the doctor’s speech at the Health Freedom Rally in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago. Stirred by Meehan calling out the Edmond Public School Administrator’s for her refusal to honor an exemption he had written for a student, Theissen began coordinating with Meehan to hold a rally and protest at the Edmond School Board meeting on May 3rd.
Even though Meehan was incorrect in attacking the Edmond Public School Administrator (it was actually the Deer Creek School Board that denied his exemption), Theissen believes that this rally will serve as a lightning rod for public school parents across the metro area who are tired of having their voices ignored by the school boards.
“They have left parents out in the cold for a very long time,” Theissen said. “We’ve been the ones who have had to foot the bill for tutors over the last year to help make up for the lousy education our kids have gotten because of the ridiculous remote and blended learning schedules. They refused to listen to us when we told them our kids were suffering. Well, we’re going to show up in force this time and let them know we’re sick and tired of being ignored.”
When asked about the main argument they plan to make against the school board, Theissen made a similar argument that Edmond attorney Frank Urbanic made last year when he successfully sued OKC Mayor David Holt on behalf of three area bars and restaurants that the Mayor tried to force closed at 11:00pm. “They have overstepped their lawful authority. They are not doctors or physicians. They do not have the right to force medical decisions on our kids against our will.”
His argument, though different from the one that Meehan has made over the last year, is a solid one. If public schools lack the statutory authority in Oklahoma to force children to be vaccinated against the parent’s wishes in order to prevent communicable diseases, then by the same logic they absolutely lack the authority to force students to wear masks against the parent’s wishes in order to prevent communicable diseases. At some point, the powers that be have to be forcefully reminded that their statutory authority has limits that cannot be tossed aside because of a “pandemic.”
The Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act
In fact, the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act (63 O.S. § 81) outlines the steps that the state, and subsequently municipal authorities, can take in the event of a declared public health emergency. When laying out the guidelines, the act is careful to point out that, “the rights of people to liberty, bodily integrity, and privacy must be respected to the fullest extent possible consistent with maintaining and preserving the health and security of the public during a catastrophic health emergency.” (63 O.S. § 81-6102.9)
The Statute further clarifies what actions fall within these guidelines as listed within the purposes of the Act (emphasis added):
4. To grant state and local officials the authority during a catastrophic health emergency to provide care, treatment, and vaccination to persons who are ill or who have been exposed to transmissible diseases, and to separate affected individuals from the population at large to interrupt disease transmission;
5. To ensure during a catastrophic health emergency that the needs of infected or exposed persons are properly addressed to the fullest extent possible, given the primary goal of controlling serious health threats; and
6. To provide, during a catastrophic health emergency, state and local officials with the ability to prevent, detect, manage, and contain health threats without unduly interfering with civil rights and liberties. (63 O.S. § 81-6103.4-6)
Nowhere in that statute is the State or municipalities given the authority to take action against healthy, uninfected individuals. As such, the school boards forcing students to wear masks against the express wishes of the parents is absolutely in direct violation of state law, with or without a medical exemption from a doctor…a message that desperate parents are hopeful that the Edmond School Board will finally get.
While it is expected that the event will have a large turnout, Theissen said the deck is stacked against them. “They are controlling the lineup of speakers very tightly, and are likely to front load it with teachers, students, and medical professionals in favor of masks…just like the city council did when they passed their mask mandate.” Theissen said he expects that EPS will move to masks-optional for summer school, then return to in-school 5-days a week with masks optional in the fall.
Anyone wishing to speak before the school board had to have signed up by this past Monday night. The meeting will start at 6pm. The rally, which will feature Dr. Meehan and Tyson Gabriel from Premiere Risk Management in Phoenix, will start in the parking lot of the EPS Administration Building at 5pm. Those who wish to attend are encouraged to show up early as parking is likely to be at a premium. Seating inside will be extremely limited due to “social distancing” and EPS is requiring anyone entering the building to wear masks…despite the City of Edmond having rescinded its mask mandate earlier this month.