Group files suit challenging RI school mask mandate

Gov. Dan McKee wears a face mask as he and RI Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced at a news conference August 19, 2021 they would require that masks be worn and other steps taken to ensure schools are safe to reopen. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A group of Rhode Island parents and grandparents has filed a legal challenge to Gov. Daniel McKee’s statewide school mask mandate.

The lawsuit filed in Providence Superior Court on Thursday alleges the Democratic governor violated state law and the state constitution in both signing the K-12 mask mandate and also declaring a new state of emergency due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, WPRI-TV reported.

The 16 parents and grandparents from Glocester, Smithfield, North Smithfield and Warwick argue there is a double standard, since the state no longer requires masks in restaurants, retail shops and other indoor spaces.

They also question the science of mask wearing, which state and national experts have said helps slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Often, it appears that those at highest risk for the effects of COVID-19, the elderly, the obese, and those with multiple comorbidities, are willing to force the young and healthy, who are little affected by COVID-19, to suffer these irreparable harms on unproven science,” the complaint says.

McKee spokesperson Alana O’Hare, citing the pending litigation, declined to comment.

In the suit, the plaintiffs also say masks make it difficult for their children to breathe, hear and communicate, hampering the learning process.

The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Gregory Piccirilli, are asking the court to declare McKee’s actions unlawful and render the mandate null and void.