Riverhead Central School District Trustee Christopher Dorr and community members are urging the district to support legal action against the State Department of Health’s indoor mask mandate for schools.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 10 by the Massapequa and Locust Valley school districts in Nassau County, argues that the mandate exceeded the authority of the governor and the health department and that the prolonged masking is harmful to children and has no conclusive scientific advantage, Newsday reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend universal indoor masking in K-12 schools, in combination with other measures, to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by people with the disease. ‘a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic infection. The masks also offer protection to people who wear them, according to health officials.
The Riverhead School District last month passed a reopening plan that follows CDC recommendations ahead of the governor’s term. Dorr, along with trustees Therese Zuhoski and Brian Connelly, opposed the plan, which was passed 4-3.
“Even though, based on our plans to reopen, I don’t think we have the voice to do it,” Dorr said of the district becoming a plaintiff in the lawsuit, “instead, is it possible to ‘write a letter to these school districts indicating our support? ” He asked.
“We wrote a letter to the state asking for masks to be optional last year,” Dorr noted. “We should be able to write a letter supporting these school districts in their fight against this illegal mask mandate,” he said.
“Yes, Mr. Dorr, the board sent a letter at the end of the school year because the [coronavirus case] the numbers were low and we were told the kids could come back without a mask, and that’s why we supported him, ”school board president Laurie Downs replied of the June 15 board letter. to former Governor Andrew Cuomo. “However, things have changed, as you well know, and we have commissioned the mask.”
Downs said the board will discuss whether to write the letter Dorr requested and do so at its next meeting on October 12, as Connelly was out on Tuesday.
Monique Parsons, who spoke out against the mask’s mandate at a previous board meeting, submitted a letter to the board on letterhead from a group called Save Our Schools-Riverhead, urging the school district to join the lawsuit against the state.
“This legal action is essential to protect the rights and local authority of parents, school boards, taxpayers and more,” Parsons wrote. “This lawsuit is not a mask against mask trial. These are constitutional rights.
In the letter, Parsons complained that Section 2.60 of the New York State Sanitary Code (Title 10 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations) “will remove all authority from duly elected school boards.”
The section, adopted as an emergency rule by the state’s health department on Aug. 27, allows the state’s health commissioner to require anyone over the age of 2 to wear a blanket. face or mask in a public place when it cannot maintain social distance and in “certain settings”, including schools. That day, State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker issued a decision of necessity and ordered face coverings to be worn in certain settings, including schools, health facilities and public transportation. .
“In the future, schools will now be required to accept any mandate based on this regulation,” Parsons wrote, calling the rule “illegal.” She said it was passed by the health ministry “unilaterally ignoring its own mandated procedure, without legislative authority, under the guise of a public emergency.”
Normally, regulations are passed through a process that includes publication of a proposed rule in the state registry and a public comment period before the new rule takes effect. However, the State Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the rulemaking process for all state agencies, empowers agencies to adopt emergency regulations if immediate adoption is “necessary to the preservation of public health, safety or general well-being ”. The State Health Code is a set of regulations made in accordance with the state public health law. The Law on Public Health and the Law on Administrative Procedure are both laws enacted by the state legislature.
Parsons’ letter alleges, “A circle of superintendents is working against the interests of our communities and democracy.” She urged the board of directors to “maintain your elected autonomy” and to do the same with the boards of directors of the districts of Massapequa and Locust Valley which, she writes, “are leading the charge against this unconstitutional and undemocratic regulation. “.
Parsons urged the school board to contact the Melville law firm representing the Massapequa and Locust Valley school districts “after rush” for a free consultation. She said it was the “duty” of the board to “hear what is being proposed” and asked the board to hold “an emergency session to give this matter the priority it demands” .
“Our reach is island wide,” Parsons wrote. “All school district leaders are called to action. She requested a response the next business day. “Ignoring this communication will constitute a breach of your duties and a violation of your oath of office.”
Parsons, a mother of two in district schools, made an unsuccessful race for a school board seat in May, placing fifth out of a pool of six candidates vying for two open board seats.
Save Our Schools is acting as “a kind of watchdog to prevent corruption, mismanagement and deceptive programs from taking over school districts,” according to its website. It “opposes unfounded or harmful theories, programs and organizations that push identity politics, target certain groups or encourage discrimination in any way,” the site says. He encourages parents to organize and “act quickly” if a “harmful propaganda program” is in their school district. The “harmful propaganda program” includes, according to the SOS website, “Critical Race Theory (aka culturally sensitive teaching), which it describes as” a tool of Marxism that divides students and creates a society. oppressed / oppressive ”. Emotional learning ”, which says“ started out as a good idea to prevent bullying, but… is used mercilessly to manipulate children’s emotions ”. “, According to the website.
The website does not list the group’s office location, phone number, or mailing address, although some of its pages refer to Smithtown and Smithtown schools. The site does not disclose the names of the leaders of the group. The site indicates that the group is not affiliated with any organization and has not received any financial support or contribution from any organization. “We rely on information from parents, press articles, FOIL legal documents and freedom of expression,” he says.
When asked for more information about Save Our Schools, Parsons referred RiverheadLOCAL to the group’s website and email address. Save Our Schools did not respond to an email requesting a phone interview.
Other members of the community said on Tuesday that they were not happy that further conversations regarding the mask’s mandate were still ongoing.
“We already had a vote before the state returned a mask warrant,” said Alison Matway of Wading River. “And now we have one of the minority, who doesn’t care about protecting our children, forcing you all to vote to participate in a mock trial that will cost my taxes money,” Matway said. , referring to Dorr, “just to fulfill preaching to his people.
-Denise Civiletti contributed to this story
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