Recently the Johnston School Committee made the decision to disregard the recommendations of the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics to require universal masking in Johnston Public School. The decision puts our children at risk, especially the children under 12 that are too young to be vaccinated.
I am a practicing attorney with a PhD in Literature and as such, I am absolutely unqualified to be making public health decisions for children in our schools. Those without any background in academic research or data analysis are even less qualified to be making such decisions. Auto body shop owners, jewelry store owners, realtors, financial officers, and employees of RI Resource Recovery, are also not qualified to make public health decisions for our schools. The people that are qualified to make such decisions and recommendations are the experts at the CDC, the pediatricians that are members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the other highly trained virologist, epidemiologist, and infectious disease experts across the country, the majority of which are urging universal masking in schools.
The CDC has said: “[d]ue to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
Yet, in a stunning display of hubris, the Johnston School Committee has decided to disregard the recommendations of these experts.
Mr. LaFazia presented this as a both sides issue, however, one side is composed of experts with the education, training, and experience necessary to have informed recommendations, the other is composed of untrained and unqualified individuals completely lacking the experience necessary to provide any public health recommendations.
By presenting this as a both sides issue and elevating the uneducated and unquailed to the level of experts, Mr. LaFazia and the rest of the School Committee are also telling our kids that education does not matter—expertise and the years of education required to achieve it does not matter—as long as you have Google and Facebook, your misinformed opinion is just as valid.
Mr. LaFazia tried to justify the Committee’s vote by pointing to the towns high vaccination rate and the fact that 90% of school staff is vaccinated. However, 100% of children under 12 are unvaccinated and completely dependent on Johnston Public Schools and the School Committee to do everything possible to protect them (which is also why virtual options should be available for children at high risk or with high-risk family members). Moreover, while I am unaware of any data on the subject, it is not wild speculation to imagine that the same parents that are against masks are also the parents most likely to be against vaccinations, which means the kids most likely to contract the virus are the ones that will be sent to school without masks. Masking helps prevent the infected from spreading the virus as much, if not more than, it prevents the uninfected from contracting the virus.
With Grave Concern and Disappointment,
Barnaby McLaughlin, Esq. PhD
A Johnston Parent