On Sept. 22, Florida's surgeon general instituted a rule that gives parents and legal guardians "sole discretion" over masking in schools. On Nov. 5, a judge sided with the state health department in a legal challenge to rule. On Nov. 18, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that allows parents to sue school districts that require masks.
My daughter is growing moody and withdrawn.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.
MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT
MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED
MASK REQUIREMENT IN EFFECT
PREVIOUSLY HAD MASK REQUIREMENT
In January 2022, the Missouri attorney general, Eric Schmitt, sued some school districts that required masks, citing a November ruling by a county judge that said local health orders tied to COVID-19 were illegal. (The ruling was interpreted differently by different districts.) The state’s treasurer announced he would also crack down on schools with mask mandates. In mid-March, Schmitt began dropping lawsuits against school districts that no longer required masks. On May 19, 2022 Schmitt announced new lawsuits against several districts that had reinstated mask requirements.
On Feb. 23, 2022 New Hampshire’s governor announced the state was no longer recommending universal indoor masking and therefore schools have to end mask mandates, arguing they violate state education department rules. Soon after, the department advised districts that the mandates “are inconsistent with” their rules. There’s disagreement over whether districts still have the authority to require masks, but at least one district changed its policy in response. A bill that would have banned mask mandates was vetoed by Gov. Sununu in May 2022.
Updated 5/23/2022 | 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.