Finch Elementary School Principal Shane O’Doherty, who two months ago made a symbolic protest against a COVID-19 mask mandate, has resigned, effective immediately.
O’Doherty’s farewell letter to parents, dated Tuesday, was released Friday afternoon by Spokane Public Schools.
On the morning of Nov. 22, O’Doherty and three other staffers were escorted from school and later suspended after refusing to wear face coverings as ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Suspended pending an investigation, O’Doherty wrote an open letter two days later claiming he chose to participate in a “peaceful protest” because of his “passion to help young people grow into great people.”
In that letter, O’Doherty said he believed masks are causing a negative impact on communication in the classroom.
On Friday, the district said that information about the investigation “will be made available in the coming days, once the investigative process is complete.”
The district also shared O’Doherty’s message to families.
“I have decided it is in the best interest for me, and for Finch Elementary, to resign from Spokane Public Schools and have chosen to explore other opportunities,” O’Doherty said in the two-paragraph letter.
“I have enjoyed the last 4½ years working at Finch and am proud of the great work we have accomplished together. Finch has always had terrific students, hardworking staff members, and incredibly supportive parents that make it an awesome school. I know it will continue that reputation with its new leadership.”
In his first letter to families, O’Doherty claimed that many children were not wearing masks properly, were touching them without sanitized hands and, in some cases, were chewing on them.
He said educators cannot see the facial expressions of their students, thus losing an important connection to their learning, and called on the district to discuss the benefits versus the risks of requiring masks in schools.
Some public health officials, however, have argued mask mandates are especially important because vaccines only recently became available to elementary-age students.
Multiple studies have shown that masks reduce transmission of COVID-19, including research by the ABC Science Collaborative, which is coordinated by the Duke University School of Medicine. That group’s work has shown that mask mandates significantly reduced COVID-19 outbreaks in schools even after the more contagious delta variant was widely circulating.
Among organizations that recommend mask mandates in schools are the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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