SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Local school districts not in favor of the mask mandate are celebrating a win- but the governor is fighting back.
A Sangamon County judge has ruled that beginning Monday, schools would no longer have to enforce a mask or vaccine, or COVID-19 testing mandate, according to a report by WCIA.
However, Gov. JB Pritzker has enlisted the Illinois Attorney General’s office to help him fight back. The Attorney General is seeking an expedited appeal from the Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court.
Pritzker said removing the mandates will cause COVID-19 numbers to rise, and said the mandates were put in place out of an abundance of caution for students and staff.
“The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities – and this may force schools to go remote. This shows yet again that the mask mandate and school exclusion protocols are essential tools to keep schools open and everyone safe. As we have from the beginning of the pandemic, the administration will keep working to ensure every Illinoisan has the tools needed to keep themselves and their loved one’s safe.”Gov. JB Pritzker
In August, Pritzker announced all schools would be required to mask all students and staff. This reversed his decision from the month before, when he said it would be up to the district. In September, he stated all school personnel would need to be vaccinated, or submit to weekly testing.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Rauoul said the decision to stop the mandates was wrong and puts students at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“This decision sends the message that all students do not have the same right to safely access schools and classrooms in Illinois, particularly if they have disabilities or other health concerns. The court’s misguided decision is wrong on the law, demonstrates a misunderstanding of Illinois emergency injunction proceedings, and has no relation to the record that was before the court. It prioritizes a relatively small group of plaintiffs who refuse to follow widely-accepted science over the rights of other students, faculty and staff to enter schools without the fear of contracting a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 31,000 Illinois residents – or taking that virus home to their loved ones.”Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Locally, school districts are now trying to determine how this will affect them. In July, the Dunlap School Board voted to make masks optional. However, that decision was struck down when Pritzker announced the mandatory mask mandate a month later.
Dunlap Superintendent Dr. Scott Dearman was quoted in August as saying the “one size fits all” plan of masking was discouraging. He put out a public statement days after the judge’s ruling, saying the district was in the process of reviewing the decision and how it would affect the district.
I write to ask for your patience and understanding as our district navigates the latest changes to the COVID-19 guidance and rules for Illinois schools. Yesterday evening, an Illinois judge ruled on a lawsuit filed by more than 700 parents across the state that challenged state-mandated COVID-19 mitigations. At this time, we are in the process of reviewing the judge’s decision and will communicate with you as soon as possible whether this ruling impacts Dunlap students and staff members. Until then, I ask for your patience as we review this decision. Thank you for your continued support of our students, teachers, and staff. While it has been a difficult year, we will continue to push forward together.Dr. Scott Dearman, Dunlap Superintendent
Back at the state level, been more people are displeased with the decision.
Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, issued a statement saying the federation feels the judge’s decision was, “legally faulty” and a threat to public health.
“The Illinois Federation of Teachers is greatly distressed at the judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO) in this case. Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, and staff across Illinois are doing their best to remain healthy and keep schools open. We believe what the judge ordered today is legally faulty and a threat to public health and, most importantly, a threat to keeping Illinois schools open for in-person learning. Our children and their families need certainty and some normalcy at school, not legal wrangling managed by a small minority of citizens.”Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers