My daughter is growing moody and withdrawn. My child’s attention span has dropped. My daughter can’t breathe. My oldest has allergies and has developed a rash from wearing a mask all day.
These are just some of the reasons why 16 parents, in a suit filed Thursday in Superior Court, Providence, have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Gov. Dan McKee’s mandate that masks be worn in all Rhode Island schools.
The lawsuit also claims that McKee lacks the constitutional authority to impose this mandate, citing limits the General Assembly placed on his executive powers over the summer.
Last month, McKee called on General Assembly leaders to reconvene to reaffirm his COVID-19 emergency powers, but the leaders of the House and Senate responded that there was no need because McKee retained authority over health and safety matters.
The families — who live in Glocester, Smithfield, North Smithfield, and Warwick — are seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the mandate.
The suit also questions the science behind masks in school, quoting a recent article from New York Magazine that said studies used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “do not show evidence that masking children in school works.”
The author, David Zweig, wrote that many European countries, along with the World Health Organization, have “explicitly recognized that the decision to mask students carries with it potential academic and social harms for children and may lack a clear benefit.”
The plaintiffs say mask-wearing threatens to cause serious and long-lasting damage on their children’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
Parents have filed at least three lawsuits in Pennsylvania challenging Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide school mask mandate, which went into effect starting Sept. 7 and sparked anti-mask protests in some districts.
Jessica LeBlanc of Smithfield blames her daughter’s growing lethargy and depression on constant mask-wearing.
“The cure is worse than the disease due to the lasting impacts the actions (of) adults in authority have on this generation,” she wrote. “Our child who once enjoyed her teachers now fears them. Whenever we tell her to reach out if she having issues ... breathing with the mask, she responds, ‘I’ll get in trouble.’”
Another plaintiff, Jonathan Barrett of Glocester, wrote that his 6th grade daughter wonders why it’s OK for her to eat at a restaurant without a mask but has to wear one while in school.
Nine states have banned school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Those bans are in effect in five states. In the remaining four states, mask mandate bans have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.
State-wide mask policies may include exemptions for certain districts, schools, groups, or individuals.
MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT
MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED
- South Carolina*
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
*On Sept. 22, Florida‘s newly-appointed surgeon general instituted a rule that gives parents and legal guardians “sole discretion” over masking in schools.
On Sept. 1, an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the state law banning school mask mandates, but students or their parents can still opt out of school mask mandates if they choose.
Tennessee‘s governor has signed and extended an executive order requiring schools to allow families to opt out of mask mandates. In some districts, judges have paused or overruled the governor’s order.
Updated guidance released by the Texas Education Agency on Sept. 17 states that per the governor’s executive order, school systems “cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.”
In Utah, local health departments can issue 30-day school mask mandates with approval from the state or county government, according to the state’s top education official.
On Sept. 27, a judge in Arizona blocked the state laws banning mask mandates that were set to take effect on Sept. 29.
In Arkansas, a judge paused the state law that prohibits local officials from setting mask mandates, meaning school districts can—at least for now—set their own local mask requirements.
On Sept. 13, a federal judge ordered Iowa to halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools. The order was later extended.
On Sept. 28, a federal judge suspended South Carolina from enforcing the rule that banned school districts from requiring masks for students.
Updated 10/15/2021 | Sources: Local media reports | Learn more here
Julie and Paul McKenney of Glocester had similar complaints.
“We believe the social and emotional effects of COVID restrictions (masking, social distancing) have had on our children far outweigh any health risks from the virus itself,” they wrote. “During snack time they are told to hurry up, face forward, not to talk, making our children feel like they are doing something wrong, that they are going to get in trouble. We need to get these kids back to the business of being educated in a comfortable, NORMAL environment.”
Another Glocester resident, Aimee Sayers, is home-schooling her children, ages 4 and 10, because of the COVID health measures adopted by the schools.
“I will not send my child to an establishment being run like a prison,” she said. “I don’t understand why we are back to square on with restrictions in schools...Not a single pediatric death in the state and we are continuing to place restrictions on the least affected group.”
But the state Department of Health said since the start of the pandemic, Rhode Island has had three children in Rhode Island die who were COVID-19 positive. However, COVID was not determined to be the primary cause of death in any of these instances.
The parents are calling for the court to declare McKee’s executive order null and void and to prohibit him from issuing any further executive orders related to COVID.
Copyright (c) 2021, The Providence Journal. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.