Judge Lanphear rules AGAINST RI state’s dismissal claim that school masking case “teeters on mootness,” noting “new masking mandates have been imposed on students since challenged masking mandate expired,” & “no indication state will never impose another student masking requirement“

Full opinion here: Southwell et al. v. McKee et al. PC-2021-05915

“the Court has no indication that our state will never impose another student masking requirement. The masking requirement was removed, not from a voluntary action of our Governor, but because of an Executive Order which expired on its own terms on March 4, 2022. (See Executive Order of the Rhode Island Governor, 22-19, Feb. 15, 2022.) Our state appears to be in the same pandemic, resulting from strains of COVID-19 which the Circuit Court described as having a “dynamic nature.” Moreover, new masking mandates have been imposed on students since the challenged masking mandate expired. The Court is not persuaded that events occurring after the filing have deprived the Parent Plaintiffs of an ongoing stake in the controversy… This Court is left to conclude, at this point, that the masking requirement is a live controversy, likely to be reimposed if future conditions change. Although the Governor’s Executive Order expired and the resultant mandatory masking of students has ceased, there is no assurance that it will not be back… The challenge based on mootness must fail, at this point… The Court finds that the issues raised are not precluded from further consideration because of mootness, at this point. As to the other issues, the Parent Plaintiffs are seeking to amend the Complaint extensively, and the parties have a right to be heard on the issue. Accordingly, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied without prejudice.”

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