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School committee backs off face mask objections vote

August 27, 2021 GMT

GLOCESTER, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island school committee that earlier this week voted to allow parents to request “conscientious objections” to the state’s universal school face mask policy is now backing off that decision, while still looking into the legality of the mandate.

Parents received automated phone calls and emails on Thursday saying that the district intends to comply with the state Department of Health’s school masking protocols, which do not allow conscientious objection exemptions, The Providence Journal reported.

The protocols allow exemptions for people who cannot wear a mask because of a disability, and for those who would be placed at risk by wearing a mask.

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Glocester superintendent Pat Dubois and school committee chair Jon Burlingame confirmed Thursday there were no plans to go against the state’s regulations.

Glocester’s vote Monday came days after Gov. Daniel McKee issued an order requiring students, staff and faculty in the state’s schools to wear face coverings during the upcoming school year, regardless of vaccination status, as a means to control spread of the coronavirus.

The Glocester School Committee has also filed an open meetings complaint with the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, committee attorney Gregory Piccirilli told WPRI-TV.

The committee alleges the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education violated the state’s open meetings law when it voted on a mask mandate because the issue had not been properly advertised on the meeting agenda.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the complaint is under review.

The school committee’s lawyer is also exploring the legality of the governor’s order.