Local schools face parents’ ire over Illinois classroom mask mandate

Local News

STILLMAN VALLEY, Ill. (WTVO) — Frustrated parents are calling out local school districts over a state imposed mandate that requires all staff and students, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks in classrooms this fall.

Meridian School District Superintendent PJ Caposey says school boards are in a bind, and are beholden to follow Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order.

“To get called things, like evil and coward, and Nazi and communist, I thought was really unfair. I just want to let everyone know, your board members are not your enemies. We’re enforcing a rule that we don’t necessarily agree with, but we have to,” he said.

Caposey says litigation and liability are major concerns if a school district was to go against the Governor’s order.

“We are not entitled to insurance, so the insurance company can just say…’you are now not following the law, so we don’t have to represent you anymore,'” he said.

Caposey says he isn’t worried about a lawsuit from a student getting COVID-19, but “it’s that I’m worried about not being insured and getting in a bus accident, or having a school catch fire.”

The Governor and State Board are also threatening to remove school status for those who don’t comply.

“Without status, you don’t get state funding, which crosses more than $7 million a year,” Caposey said. “You also don’t get to be a part of the IHSA, which takes away our students’ ability to compete athletically.”

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R) says he believes masks should remain a choice.

“Those who want that as an option, absolutely, both teachers and students,” he said. “If they think that’s something that’s important to them, we should leave that up to an individual’s choice.”

Sosnowski says Pritzker’s executive orders are getting out of hand.

“I think the executive orders have to stop. These ongoing 30 days, every 30 days and continuing it well over a year, that’s not what emergency orders were meant for,” he said.

Sosnowski has said that he believes local jurisdictions should have the the ability to pass referendums, depending on the will of the communities in those areas.

Caposey says he understands the frustration parents have.

“We are on the same team, largely. Even when we disagree, we’re on the same team. We’re the same community,” he said.

Caposey said he asks that parents not attack school board members or use spiteful language. He says they’re trying their best and agree with the majority of parental concerns.

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