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'100% vindication': Teachers win big settlement after being fired, denied COVID vaccine religious exemptions

Image source: Barrington Middle School Vimeo channel screenshot

A school district settled with three Rhode Island teachers whom administrators fired after denying the teachers a religious exemption from the school's COVID vaccine mandate, Fox News Digital and other outlets reported.

'It's vindication," the teachers' attorney, Gregory P. Piccirilli, said in an interview with the Coalition Radio Network about the settlement, which he says is valued at more than half a million dollars.

"The key part is, they have their reinstatement. Their records are purged. They don't ever have to say that they were fired if they apply for another job ... just 100% vindication. More than I think we could have hoped for even if we'd won in court."

Brittany DiOrio, Stephanie Hines, and Kerri Thurber were denied religious exception requests to the school's mandatory COVID vaccine at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, Legal Insurrection reported. They were suspended without pay and ultimately fired in January 2022.

The Barrington School Committee announced a settlement with the Barrington Public School teachers that includes full reinstatement, back pay, and attorneys' fees, in a press release acquired by the outlet.

Hines, Thurber, and DiOrio will receive back pay in the amounts of $65,000, $128,000, and $150,000, respectively. Each woman will receive $33,333 on top of that, a three-way split of $100,000. Barrington Public Schools will also be paying the teachers' legal counsel $50,000.

"Our district was navigating an unprecedented health pandemic and leaned on the important recommendations by the CDC and the Rhode Island Department of Health to ensure the safety of our students and school community," the statement said, in part.

"Our then-policy helped combat the pressing public health crisis of the time, while keeping schools open, and one that nearly all faculty adhered to," the statement also said.

"In coordination with our legal counsel and Superintendent, we determine this ongoing, expensive litigation would likely continue for a lengthy period of time, and a resolution should be reached. 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 work."

In a statement to Fox News Digital, the teachers' attorney, Gregory P. Piccirilli, called the overall situation "troubling," noting that the teachers involved had declined the vaccine based on their religious convictions. Further, he said, all had been previously infected with the virus and therefore had natural immunity to it. He also said their local union refused to represent them.

"At this time, my clients are in the process of rebuilding their lives and careers, as well as their reputations, after having been vilified by so many for taking a stand in their faith in opposing what was both an illegal and immoral vaccine mandate," Piccirilli told the outlet.

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