On Tuesday, over three dozen parent plaintiffs celebrated a rare judicial victory against Covid-19 pandemic tyranny in their historic school mask mandate lawsuit against the State of RI and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH). In a private conference in the judge’s chambers, all parties agreed to a settlement that will have near- and long-term implications.
The settlement is a major victory for the parent plaintiffs and their attorney, Gregory Piccirilli, who withstood repeated efforts by the State’s large team of taxpayer-funded lawyers to have the case dismissed, but who prevailed in the end.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Piccirilli, lead plaintiff Rich Southwell, and parent-plaintiff organizer Laurie Gaddis-Barrett joined Mike Stenhouse and Pat Ford on its December 12 episode of In The Dugout Radio. Click here to listen.
Over 35 parent plaintiffs filed suit in September of 2021, each documenting how Rhode Island’s school mask mandates, which were based on zero scientific evidence, produced actual harm for their children. The lawsuit sought a determination that the State and RIDOH acted improperly when they imposed mask mandates on K-12 students.
The Current has been informed that the settlement has included a statement of intent by the RI Department of Health that all procedural guidelines, with required transparency and public debate, must be followed before any future school masking rule might be promulgated by the now mistrusted health agency.
While the settlement does not include an explicit admission of past wrong-doing, there can be no doubt that the settlement itself is a tacit admission that RIDOH violated its own regulatory guidelines by rushing to impose school mask mandates without appropriate due process and without opportunity for public comment and debate. There were no financial damages sought or awarded.
It was also made clear during some of the preliminary hearings that were held in 2022, that RIDOH imposed school mask mandates without any scientific basis or research data to indicate that communal-masking policies might be effective in preventing the spread of an air-born virus like Covid.
In fact, the research showed the opposite; that mask mandates were not only ineffective, but also potentially harmful, both medically and emotionally, to children. Even the Superior Court judge wrote in an earlier ruling that the plaintiff’s children did indeed suffer “irreparable harm“.
In early 2024, it is expected that RIDOH will hold open-hearings with the goal of revising its regulatory process for imposing mask mandates to comply with the terms of the settlement, the language of which should be made public in the coming weeks.
Earlier post from March 21, 2023 …
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Governor Dan McKee and the RI Department of Health, among others, has informed The Ocean State Current that a major break in the case may be close at hand.
Rich Southwell, one of over 3 dozen parent plaintiffs, was advised by their attorney, Gregory Piccirilli, that there has apparently been some “movement” towards a settlement to the 18 month-old case. This news, strangely, comes just 11 days after a prior settlement was rejected by the State of Rhode Island.
Further details were not specified and attorney Piccirilli could not be reached for comment. But obvious questions arise:
What constitutes the “movement” and who initiated it?
Is the settlement, presumably soon to be negotiated, the same settlement that was previously rejected? Or is one side about to propose a new settlement framework?
Is the State capitulating to public pressure following its March 10 refusal to settle? Was it embarrassed by the negative publicity? Here’s why we ask:
The Current’s March 10 Quick Pitch Breaking News Update video interview with Southwell went viral and has achieved over 4000 views (watch here beginning at the 2:45 minute mark).
Also, Coalition Radio posted extensive video interviews with the plaintiff team and all but embarrassed Governor McKee just days ago when reporter Pat Ford asked McKee about the rejected offer … with McKee (on video-tape) essentially confessing he had no idea what was going on.
How long will it take for this “movement” in the case to manifest in court?
Check back to this story for updated information as it becomes available to The Current.