Barrington School Committee will not appeal court’s decision

District will pay $500 fine, $30K for plaintiffs' legal fees

Posted 10/12/22

The Barrington School Committee issued a statement on Wednesday morning, Oct. 12, regarding a Superior Court judge’s ruling in an Open Meetings case.

The committee stated that it will not …

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Barrington School Committee will not appeal court’s decision

District will pay $500 fine, $30K for plaintiffs' legal fees

Posted

The Barrington School Committee issued a statement on Wednesday morning, Oct. 12, regarding a Superior Court judge’s ruling in an Open Meetings case.

The committee stated that it will not appeal the judge’s decision. 

Judge Jeffrey Lanphear recently ruled that the Barrington School Committee violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by failing to provide sufficient notice before enacting the school district’s vaccinate mandate for teachers and other employees last year.

Judge Lanphear ordered the school committee to pay a $500 fine and the plaintiffs’ legal expenses and court costs. 

The judge stopped short of voiding the vaccine mandate policy and reinstating the terminated teachers, "even though the policy was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act."

The school committee’s statement reads, in part: “While the Committee disagrees with aspects of the Court’s decision, we endorse the Court’s decision to reject the plaintiff’s request to nullify the COVID-19 Policy amended in September 2021 and reinstate the teachers. The Committee continues to be dedicated to focusing on its key charge: to carry out teaching and learning in a setting that secures the health, safety, and wellness of students and staff alike. In that vein, Committee feels that it is in the best interest of the district to move forward and will not seek to appeal the Court’s decision.”

Barrington school teachers Brittany DiOrio, Stephanie Hines and Kerri Thurber were fired last year after the school district denied their requests for religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate. 

The teachers, acting through their attorney Greg Piccirilli, filed a lawsuit against the school committee, arguing that the committee violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it voted to enact the vaccine mandate policy. The judge ruled in favor of the teachers.

Piccirilli said that at his last public filing, his fees were approaching $30,000. He also said Barrington taxpayers will pay much more for the school committee's attorneys.

A document obtained by the Barrington Times in July showed that the district had already spent $79,000 on legal fees related to the terminated teachers case. 

DiOrio, Hines and Thurber are also appealing to the Rhode Island Department of Education the school committee’s initial ruling to deny their religious exemption requests. That appeal will be heard by the RIDE Commissioner’s office. 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.