Last spring, the Oklahoma Legislature passed and the governor signed a law that forbids school district boards from imposing mask mandates unless an emergency is first declared. Last week, Superintendent Sean McDaniel, with the support of the Oklahoma City school board, imposed a district-wide mask mandate. His rationale is that the law only applies to school boards, not to superintendents.

Two issues arise from this development, one having to do with mask efficacy and the pagan-like faith being placed on what amount to talismans, and the other having to do with rule of law.

Mask mandates are like requiring everyone to carry a crucifix as a guard against the plague. Surgical masks and their cousins were never intended for the purpose of preventing a respiratory-infecting virus from being transmitted, but are merely to prevent bacteria-infested saliva particles from falling into open surgical wounds. There are too many leaks around these masks to block infected air from escaping. These close-fitting masks are not intended for all-day use; they retain bacteria and fungus that cause skin infections.

The best mask-type protection for those concerned about catching Covid is the N-95 mask with an exhalation valve. It protects the wearer from viruses and allows for free exhalation, which does nothing to protect others, but does prevent the mask from breaking the seal on the face. The best review of research on mask effectiveness was recently published in City Journal. Not only is the superintendent’s mandate merely a security blanket, it is likely to make people sicker.

As to the rule of law, the state government must take immediate action and not allow another Western Heights fiasco where a superintendent was allowed to go rogue for years. Failure to act with vigor against a clear flouting of the law makes it all the harder to rein in excesses and abuses in the future.

And make no mistake, the law has clearly been flouted. Imagine the absurdity of a situation where a law, for example, states the governor may not arbitrarily shut down highways and then some underling does so because the law does not explicitly bar that underling from doing so. This is not just a violation in spirit, but in fact, as there is little doubt that a governor could force the underling to do his bidding. Failure for other branches of government to enforce the law would be tantamount to admitting there is, in fact, no such thing as rule of law in Oklahoma.

The governor should act forthwith. The attorney general should act as well, to protect and defend the rights of students and teachers against the illegal actions of the Oklahoma City Public School system. There should already have been strong statements against the superintendent’s illegal act. The State Board of Education should already be discussing the legal requirements to remove McDaniel and possibly the OKCPS board from office. Failure to act thusly creates a disastrous precedent and can only be explained as rank cowardice.

Byron Schlomach is Director of the 1889 Institute and can be reached at [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.