Southwell v. McKee Court Ruling Puts Onus on Lawmakers
While Children Suffer, General Assembly Does Nothing
Parents Demand House Speaker & Senate President Engage
Cranston, RI – “The court finds children are suffering … irreparable harm … physical and emotional … with potential long-term medical problems … with the mask mandate.”
These were just some of the chilling findings by Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear in his ruling this past Friday, even though he denied the parent-plaintiffs the temporary restraining order they sought to end school mask mandates in their Southwell v. McKee lawsuit.
Yet for the entirety of the pandemic, General Assembly leaders have been AWOL, allowing this harm to children, as well as considerable other economic and constitutional harms, to continue unchecked and in the shadows.
In speaking for the 34 plaintiff parents, and for all concerned parents, lead plaintiff, Richard Southwell, said, “As does every parent in this state, we are concerned with the well-being of our children. We strongly disagree with the judge’s opinion that the State’s claimed risks associated with spread among unmasked children in any way outweigh the problems our children are actually suffering. The public needs to hear what we heard in court,” continued Southwell, who, along with other parents, will be guests of Mike Stenhouse on his popular In The Dugout show at 4:00 pm today at OceanStateCurrent.com/LIVE .
In ruling against the plaintiffs, the judge essentially ruled that it is not within the purview of the court to over-rule a “political” policy that does not clearly violate a constitutional right. Such a decision, the judge wrote, is a “question left to the legislative and executive branches of government.”
“In light of these deeply troubling findings, the General Assembly no longer has the luxury of watching from the sidelines. Your direct and immediate action on this issue is required. There can be no delays. There can be no more excuses,” pleaded Southwell.
For 18 months, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has called on the General Assembly to come out from hiding and restore more balanced governance and transparent debate during the pandemic.
In August, 32 legislators, likewise concerned, signed a letter to the Governor calling for an end to the mask mandate, while threatening legislative action if he did not, a power statutorily granted to the General Assembly. However, legislative leaders quickly shut down any follow-up mutiny and continued to refuse to show any leadership on behalf of the public they serve.
With these stunning findings of pediatric harm confirmed by the court, the suffering of Ocean State students must be addressed forthright: The Center calls upon General Assembly leaders to immediately convene hearings to determine if school mask mandates and other ’emergency executive orders’ should be contravened by concurrent resolution.
“Who is really running this state? Elected officials – the Governor, Senators, and Representatives … or unelected ideologues at the RI Department of Health,” cynically asked Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Through their inaction, Speaker of the House Shekarchi and Senate President Ruggerio obviously do not want the responsibility of governing over pandemic related policies … but the judge was right, this is their job … and it’s high time they show some courage and get to work for the people. It is their duty to hold public hearings whereby all of the facts and issues can be openly debated. For too long, the Governor and RIDOH have ruled unchecked and without necessary public scrutiny.”
Earlier this morning in an email, Southwell invited Shekarchi and Ruggerio to meet with his parent group Wednesday evening, however, thus far, there has been no response.
Decisive evidence presented during the October trial, as well as the overwhelming body of national and international research, clearly show that there is no medical justification for masking children over prolonged periods of time. The Center maintains that this important information must be presented, debated, and assessed transparently in a public hearing that only the General Assembly can credibly hold.