By JOHN O'CONNOR | AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — In a move that was expected since Friday's ruling, Illinois' attorney general on Monday appealed a judge's ruling that invalidated Gov. J.B. Pritzker's requirement that masks be worn in schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul asked the 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield for an emergency halt to a temporary restraining order against the mask mandate.
“Absent a stay, students, teachers, and other school employees will be further exposed to COVID-19, leading to additional and likely widespread transmission within schools and in the broader community, increased hospitalizations and deaths, and school staff shortages requiring full remote learning or even school closures,” the appeal stated.
Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow on Friday ruled that the Democratic governor had overstepped his authority in an emergency order issued in the fall that has required students and staff to wear face coverings. She nixed other orders too, including one mandating vaccinations for school employees.
She agreed with the plaintiffs that students may not be excluded from school for health reasons without family consent or a public health quarantine order.
In a news conference Monday, Pritzker said the ruling was “out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis.”
“Most importantly, it constrains the ability of the named school districts to maintain safe in-person learning requirements,” Pritzker continued. “The judge’s decision cultivates chaos for parents, families, teachers and school administrators. ... Wearing masks has never been about what was required by the governor or any other authority. Masks, for most people anyway, have been about doing what’s right.”
Grischow's ruling on the mask mandate affected more than 150 school districts, prompting varied reactions. At least two — St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 and Geneva Community Unit School District 304 — reacted with an emergency closure Monday. Chicago Public Schools, meanwhile, said it would continue to enforce its mask mandate.
Springfield School District 186 said it was “encouraging” students and staff to wear masks "until a more definitive ruling and additional guidance are brought forth.”
Chicago Public Schools maintains the ruling does not affect the district from exercising its authority to continue COVID-19 safety protocols, including requiring masks in classrooms. Also, the nation’s third-largest school district negotiated a COVID-19 safety plan with the Chicago Teachers Union in January, which requires the district to provide KN95 masks to students and teachers.
The rules “have allowed us to provide a safe in-person learning environment for students and staff, and we will not jeopardize the progress we have made in protecting our school communities during this pandemic,” district CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement to the community.
Elgin School District U46 said it was keeping its mask mandate, but exempting students and teachers who signed on to the litigation.
“We are getting so close with our ever-declining cases to returning to a sense of normalcy, which likely will include a movement toward masks being optional,” Superintendent Tony Sanders said in a written statement. “I am asking that we continue to support the safety of our students and our staff by wearing masks for now.”
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Notes & References
Press, Associated. “Illinois Judge Blocks School Mask Mandate, State Plans to Appeal.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, February 5, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/illinois-judge-blocks-school-mask-mandate-state-plans-to-appeal/. ↩︎