Rich Southwell, lead plaintiff, along with his over three-dozen co-plaintiffs in the school mask mandate lawsuit against Governor McKee and the RI Department of Health, are calling for the support of parents and concerned citizens at a court-ordered public hearing to be conducted by RIDOH on Friday morning, March 15.

Court-ordered March 15 Public Forum May Expose Pseudo-Science of RIDOH’s School Mask Mandate Blunder

Rich Southwell, lead plaintiff, along with his over three-dozen co-plaintiffs in the school mask mandate lawsuit against Governor McKee and the RI Department of Health, are calling for the support of parents and concerned citizens at a court-ordered public hearing to be conducted by RIDOH on Friday morning, March 15.

Southwell is looking to fill the room, many of whom he hopes will testify, and to have others submit testimony via email, calling on the public do its part in fighting off future frivolous school mask mandates.

As part of the settlement agreement reached between the plaintiffs and the State of RI, RIDOH must hold an open forum, where testimony about the efficacy of community masking can be presented on the record … a required act of transparency that was ignored during the pandemic when McKee and the DOH first imposed the state’s school mask mandates.

As part of their negotiated victory in the case, Southwell and all plaintiffs, led by attorney Gregory Piccirilli, won a major concession from RIDOH … that the pros and cons of school mask mandates would finally be debated in a public forum.

In what may be the only instance in the nation where a state department of health has been forced to consider a specific masking regulation and forced to conduct a public hearing, Rhode Islanders and citizens across America should take heart that a significant victory has been achieved against the authoritarian mismanagement and scientific negligence by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Dr. Andrew Bostom, the plaintiff’s top medical and data research advisor throughout the entire legal process, the upcoming public forum will expose the pseudo-science conducted by RI Department of Health.

The official issue to be addressed at the 9:00 AM hearing, is whether a proposed new school masking regulation should be permanently adopted, which would govern RIDOH procedures when it comes to potential future airborne pandemics.

However, the actual issue that will be the focus of the hearing is whether the efficacy of school masking mandates have any scientific or data-driven basis … and whether such polices might cause real harm to children and staff who are forced to breathe unclean air for long periods of time, from under their masks. In fact, the Superior Court judge ruled previously in the case that children indeed suffered “irreparable harm” from the DOH’s mask mandates.

“Based on what we now know, we never want to see any child harmed again by such cavalier and callous actions by our own department of health,” said Southwell. “If there is to be a school masking regulation, it must ensure that any future consideration of school mask mandates will be required to be based upon the actual science and the findings of gold-star random control studies. This regulation provides no such assurance.”

To date, 78 such relevant studies, summarized by the prestigious Cochrane report, “did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks.”[i]

The language of the proposed regulation was agreed upon as part of the lawsuit settlement, however the plaintiffs could not move the DOH far enough … and are therefore encouraging the public to testify – in person or via email – against adoption of the regulation.

Per attorney Piccirilli, he and the plaintiffs attempted to negotiate language that set a much higher scientific standard, however the State wanted as much arbitrary wiggle-room as possible by demanding vague language that would allow the DOH to balance scientific evidence with “the exercise of judgment” by DOH officials. [ii] The language that was agreed upon was the best the plaintiffs could negotiate with RIDOH, which clearly is seeking to maintain the regulatory authority to impose future mandates, if its staff so desires, regardless of the science.

While there is no existing specific school masking regulation, Southwell and Piccirilli believe that the proposed language will not provide adequate protections for the safety of children and will infringe upon parental rights. In fact, they believe adoption of this regulation would give RIDOH the power to capriciously impose mask mandates upon children for any infectious disease, such as RSV, the flu, or chicken pox.

Southwell believes that a large response by the public, combined with the scientific evidence to be presented by local and national experts against school mask mandates, may be sufficient to dissuade RIDOH from adopting the rule. Alternatively, they will likely seek to greatly strengthen the proposed language through recommended amendments or edits to it.

“There should be no regulation requiring masking in schools for the alleged prevention of respiratory viral infections until evidence of BOTH their effectiveness, and lack of harm, has been demonstrated convincingly by multiple, rigorous, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in school age children published in peer reviewed journals,” advised Andrew Bostom.

Southwell calls upon parents, family, friends, and neighbors to participate and flood the RIDOH with compelling testimony. In February of 2022 over four-hundred Rhode Islanders testified against mandates and he feels this same level of support is once again needed.

Piccirilli further maintains that creating a public “record” of what he expects to be overwhelming evidence against child masking will be a critical legal deterrent against the DOH considering such a mandate again, even if the regulation is adopted largely as proposed.

According to a flyer put forth by Southwell to the plaintiff families, there are many ways to help stop this mask mandate regulation:


[i] Do physical measures such as hand-washing or wearing masks stop or slow down the spread of respiratory viruses? | Cochrane

[ii] Masking in School – Rhode Island Department of State (

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