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Barrington, R.I., school committee settles with teachers who refused COVID-19 vaccine

PROVIDENCE — The Barrington public school system has reached an out-of-court settlement with three teachers who sued after being fired when they refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in 2021.

The teachers will receive $33,333 each, plus back pay net of the pay they’ve received from other jobs in the meantime, and will be able to be reinstated to their previous positions if they choose to at the steps they’d have if they’d worked there continuously. For back pay, Stephanie Hines will receive $65,000, Kerri Thurber will receive $128,000, and Brittany DiOrio will receive $150,000. The three teachers had claimed religious exemptions to getting vaccinated against COVID, which the school committee rejected. The teachers were placed on leave and eventually fired. They filed suit against the Barrington School Committee in state court.

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Their lawyer, Gregory Piccirilli, who will receive $50,000 in legal fees, said his clients were pleased with the outcome.

“We’re extremely gratified that they’ve been vindicated in their position,” Piccirilli said. “A lot of people were dismissive and skeptical of their claims at the time. They went through a lot of personal trauma dealing with this. Their faith has gotten them through this.”

Their termination records will also be expunged, Piccirilli said. They will have to decide whether they return to the district, he said. Two got jobs in another district and the other has been doing other work.

DiOrio had been a special-education teacher at Sowams Elementary School; Hines was a teacher at Hampden Meadows School; and Thurber was a music teacher at Barrington Middle School.

Barrington Public Schools’ COVD-19 vaccine mandate was lifted late last month, according to the Barrington Times.

The Barrington School Committee, meanwhile, said that its former policy “helped combat the pressing public health crisis of the time, while keeping schools open, and one that nearly all faculty and staff adhered to.”

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“In coordination with our legal counsel and Superintendent, we determined this ongoing, expensive litigation would likely continue for a lengthy period of time, and a resolution should be reached,” the school committee said. “We believe our Administration’s time, and our District’s financial resources, should be spent on the daily work and mission of Barrington Public Schools. Our School Committee looks forward to continuing to support this important work.”


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.