Parents behind lawsuit challenging school mask mandate appeal judge’s decision to maintain it

Coronavirus

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) — Several parents who are challenging the state’s school mask mandate are doubling down on their efforts by appealing a Rhode Island Superior Court judge’s decision last week to uphold it.

Although Superior Court Associate Justice Jeffrey Lanphear did not side with the group, he did admit that their concerns were valid.

“The court has no doubt that the plaintiffs are motivated by a legitimate desire to act in the best interest of their children,” Lanphear wrote in his decision. “At the same time, the governor and Department of Health are tasked with protecting the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders, and have presented substantial evidence that the mask mandate is a reasonable and appropriate means to minimize the serious risk posed by COVID-19.”

Glocester resident and the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff Richard Southwell said their attorney officially appealed Lanphear’s decision Wednesday.

“This is a dangerous policy and it is a harmful policy for very little if any benefit,” Southwell argued, adding that the mask mandate is the sole reason he’s now homeschooling his son.

Southwell hopes state lawmakers are willing to listen to their concerns.

“We now have a ruling from a judge in Superior Court saying school children in Rhode Island are being irreparably harmed, they no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

Rep. Mike Chippendale joined the group at a town hall-style meeting Wednesday.

12 News asked him if he believes lawmakers will discuss the school mask mandate when they reconvene in January.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully a more robust and full-bodied approach by both chambers … to just look at the state of emergency and assess whether or not we need to continue with it,” Chippendale said.

Southwell said he expects to learn more about how the appeal will move forward sometime next week.

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