SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health have won an injunction against three school districts who said they did not need to mandate face masks for in-person learning this year.
Pritzker filed a preemptive lawsuit in July to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A lawyer representing Hutsonville Community Unit School District No. 1 in southeastern Illinois, Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville and Families of Faith Christian Academy in Channahon wrote letters in the last month to the state board explaining that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in a 1922 case that government cannot make rules “which merely have a tendency to prevent” the spread of infectious diseases, particularly if “arbitrary and unreasonable.”
Thomas DeVore of Greenville also noted that Pritzker has said there’s not enforcement for violators of the guidelines, which DeVore contended turns “rules” into “recommendations.” He did not return a message left at his office after hours Thursday.
“What’s going on here, we’ve had 30 cases, no hospitalizations, no deaths in this community,” said Hutsonville superintendent Julie Kraemer told WTWO.
Pritzker in June released of a set of guidelines for safe congregation in schools from kindergarten through college, but among others, the state’s two major teachers’ unions have continued worries about keeping congested classrooms, hallways and playgrounds safe.
Last week, the Hutsonville school board voted 4-3 to comply with the state health guidelines.
“We had a lot of discussion and have gotten advice from our attorneys that if we don’t exactly follow the guidelines then our tort immunity disappears and that’s what the major concern was,” Kraemer said.
The Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers are standing behind the decision handed down by the Sangamon County Circuit Court.
“An individual’s main protection against the coronavirus is the widespread adoption of public health guidelines” and that the “public interest accords with the interests of teachers, administrators, and staff, who should not be forced to pursue their chosen calling at the cost of putting themselves, their students, their loved ones, and the larger community at unreasonable risk of infection,” the IEA and IFT said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“Together, the IEA and the IFT represent 238,000 employees in public and private schools, colleges and universities in the state of Illinois, serving more than 2.5 million Illinois students. Our members are eager to return to in-person instruction, but have grave concerns for the safety of our students, our colleagues and our communities. We agree that some types of in-person instruction can be achieved with rigorous health and safety mitigation, but absent a practical safety plan, we believe the 2020-21 school year should begin with remote learning,” the statement continued.
“Right now, there is no vaccine and no cure, so the main protection for both educators – those who are pursuing their life’s calling – and students in an indoor setting is the widespread adoption and enforcement of public health guidelines. Abiding by those guidelines helps keep not only those in school buildings safe, but also their loved ones and the community at large. This isn’t politics. It’s science.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.