Esteemed superintendents and school committees,

Thank you for guiding our schools during such an incredibly tumultuous period. It is with much respect and appreciation that I urge you to consider the following points as you craft mask policies for the upcoming school year.

As RIDOH passes off the department’s mask mandates to local school districts, the Department of Health is also passing along legal liability for any and all negative impacts of mask mandates on children. DOH has been incredibly unresponsive to parental concerns and has left a long list of unanswered questions that our superintendents and school committee members are now left to address before imposing further mask mandates on our children. As a mother and a teacher, I am incredibly alarmed by RIDOH’s utter lack of transparency and the department’s reckless disregard for the well-being of our children, our informed consent and bodily autonomy. If you decide to take on the governor and DOH’s mask mandates, the community now look to you to address our concerns, which have gone unanswered for over a year.

If superintendents and school committees decide to require mask use for the upcoming school year, how will you ensure that the blood oxygen levels of children will remain constant and not drop, from wearing a mask for 7–hour school days? Will you assess the blood oxygen levels of masked children as diligently as you test for Covid? Will children be forced to wear a mask while exercising as they were last year?

If you mandate mask use for students, how will you evaluate the social and emotional impacts that wearing a mask is having on children and adolescents? How will you evaluate the physiological impacts that wearing a mask is having on their developing bodies? How will you evaluate the educational impacts that wearing a mask is having on them?

What are the metrics for relieving children of continuous mask use in schools? When will this end? Will masks be used to coerce families into accepting unwanted experimental products for our children? How will you accommodate families whose children cannot mask for a variety of reasons? Will those families be denied access to school? Will you turn students away who come to school without a mask or refuse to wear one? Is the district prepared to enter the legal realm?

When will you ask parents for our input regarding appropriate mask policies for our own children? For how long will you allow government agencies with no personal investment in our children’s well-being to usurp our parental rights and remove us from the decision-making process? It is parents and not DOH who are dealing with all of the negative repercussions from forcibly masking our children, thus school leadership should be turning to parents and not DOH when crafting policies for the upcoming school year.

Vulnerable adults have options. Why don’t children? What is forced masking keeping them safe from? Not a single child died of any variant of Covid in Rhode during this entire pandemic...without a vaccine. That is a fact. It is time to weigh the risks for children against the injurious effects that many children are experiencing.

I urge you to keep our children safe from forcibly obstructing their airways which is stressing and injuring their developing bodies in both anticipated and unanticipated ways. We simply don’t know how a year of forced mask use has already impacted our children physiologically, emotionally, socially and educationally. Please prioritize our children’s health and well-being this year and ensure that the needs of all families are protected by discontinuing DOH’s reckless mask mandates. Restore informed consent, bodily autonomy and parental rights back to Rhode Island families.

Maddalena Cirignotta

Wakefield

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