The appeal hearing for the three unvaccinated Barrington school teachers who were fired by the district will be held on Thursday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. in the Barrington High School …
The appeal hearing for the three unvaccinated Barrington school teachers who were fired by the district will be held on Thursday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m. in the Barrington High School auditorium.
The hearing had recently been postponed due to a disagreement in the venue: The school committee wanted to hold it online, while the teachers were requesting an in-person hearing. The March 31 appeal will be held in-person. It is not clear if remote access to the hearing will be available.
The fired Barrington teachers — Brittany DiOrio, Kerri Thurber and Stephanie Hines — requested religious exemptions from the district’s vaccine mandate, but at a pre-termination hearing in Oct. 2021, Barrington School Committee members Gina Bae, Erika Sevetson and Megan Douglas followed the superintendent’s recommendation to deny the requests, citing an “undue burden” the teachers’ unvaccinated status would place on the school department. Committee member Patrick McCrann voted against terminating the teachers.
The school committee’s vaccine mandate did not offer any alternatives to the district’s employees who chose not to get vaccinated. Anyone who did not receive the vaccine was terminated.
However, the school committee has since signed an agreement that allows teachers and other staff members who opt to not receive a Covid-19 booster shot to keep their jobs so long as they follow a series of measures, including twice-a-week testing and use of an N-95 mask at all times while inside any school building.
DiOrio, Thurber and Hines have been unable to collect unemployment as they were originally placed on unpaid leave by the district. They have also had to pay out of pocket for their healthcare.
During a recent interview, DiOrio questioned why the teachers' union and school committee were able to negotiate an alternative for the booster mandate, but not for the vaccine mandate.
“Where were you for us?” DiOrio asked. “Where were you for the vaccine mandate?”
On March 31, school committee members will hear the appeal to their original decision to terminate the three teachers. If the school committee votes to uphold its decision, the teachers could then appeal their termination to the Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner.
“This isn’t over the vaccine. This is over wrongful termination,” DiOrio said.
Thurber, Hines and DiOrio have also filed a lawsuit against the Barrington School Committee, alleging that the school committee did not post proper notification of the meeting during which the committee voted to approve the vaccine mandate for all school department employees.