Raimondo says policy in the works for students who refuse to wear masks

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday that students will have to wear masks in the classroom when (and if) they return to in-person learning.

But what if they don’t?

Will school administrators, teachers or staff members be allowed to send students who refuse home? In a wide-ranging interview for WPRI 12’s Newsmakers on Thursday, Raimondo admitted that’s a thorny issue.

“We’re trying to figure that out,” Raimondo said. “My approach would be exactly the approach that we have which is make it easy or for the child, offer the child a mask if they forget a mask, kids that are developmentally disabled and unable to wear mask or keep it on, we understand that.”

“We don’t want to get into a mask-shaming kind of a situation,” she added.

Raimondo said they have to come up with a policy before the start of school to deal with students who decline to wear a mask in the classroom.

The same scenario may arise if a vaccine for the coronavirus is developed. National polling suggests there is a large chunk of the population that would wait or refuse to get a vaccine largely concerned about its safety.

Raimondo said “it’s on the table” that the student would not be allowed to return to school unless they are vaccinated.

“We’re going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” she said. “I’ll do whatever the Department of Health says with respect to that.”

Raimondo said she is also considering delaying the start of school by 10 days like Gov. Charlie Baker decided to do in Massachusetts, but she isn’t there yet.

On Aug. 17, the R.I. Department of Health will release their recommendations on what the reopening of schools should look like.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

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