‘Kids need to breathe’: Group of RI parents push back against K-12 mask mandate

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — Richard Southwell says it’s “time to ask more questions and push back a little bit” when it comes to Gov. Dan McKee’s statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools.

He is among a group of 16 parents and grandparents who filed a lawsuit over McKee’s mandate, hoping the 26-page complaint will render it null and void.

Southwell said after he and his wife home-schooled their 12-year-old son last year, they enrolled him to return to the classroom. However, they reversed their decision after McKee issued the decision about mask-wearing in August.

“He’s disappointed. He’s not seeing his friends and it’s because what he was expecting is not an offer currently with the governor’s guidelines,” Southwell said.

The plaintiffs, which include families from Glocester, North Smithfield, Smithfield and Warwick, called the mandate depressing, controlling and torture for their children.

More than two dozen other parents are expected to join the lawsuit, according to Southwell.

“My wife and I and the other plaintiffs in this case are not alone,” he said. “There is a second wave of plaintiffs waiting to sign onto this lawsuit and that list grows every day.”

The lawsuit calls the science behind mask-wearing into question, saying “often it appears that those at highest risk are willing to force the young and healthy, who are little affected by COVID-19, to suffer these irreparable harms on unproven science.”

12 News reached out to the McKee’s office for comment. A spokesperson said he is declining to comment on the pending litigation at this time.

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