District 87 asks for patience as it considers judge’s order voiding school mask mandate

Bloomington’s District 87 said Saturday it was considering a judge’s order that would lift rules on masking in schools and mandatory COVID-19 vaccines or regular testing for school staff.

The order came late Friday, throwing Governor JB Pritzker’s mandate for masks in schools into legal limbo. Hours after Springfield Judge Raylene Grischow issued her decision, Pritzker promised to take the case to a higher court, asking for an expedited appeal of the ruling.

But if the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals doesn’t step in and suspend Grischow’s temporary restraining order over the weekend, K-12 students across the state could be free to come to school on Monday without a mask.

In Bloomington, District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly on Saturday asked his families “for patience and understanding as our district navigates the latest changes to COVID-19 guidelines and rules for Illinois schools. “.

“At this time, we are reviewing the judge’s decision and will let you know as soon as possible if this decision impacts District 87 students and staff,” Reilly said. “Until then, I ask for your patience as we review this decision.”

The state appeals

In a brief appeal filed late Friday eveningstate attorneys presented the argument to suspend Grischow’s temporary restraining order (TRO) on masks in schools.

“The Court’s TRO is likely (a) to disrupt schools’ ability to continue in-person instruction, and (b) to cause an increase in illness, and possibly death,” the appeal said. “Conversely, plaintiffs face the minimal inconvenience associated with wearing a mask, or the possibility of brief exclusion from school grounds while awaiting appeal.

In a statement, Pritzker warned of the “serious consequences[s]stemming from Grischow’s decision, saying districts “will no longer have enough tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities,” and warned that lifting the mandate mask “could force schools to move away”.

Friday’s decision represents the biggest victory in nearly two years of legal battles over Pritzker’s COVID mitigation strategies.

Grischow — a Republican who earlier in the pandemic overturned a high-profile legal victory by GOP gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, challenging the stay-at-home orders of Pritzker — sided with parents who sued 146 school districts over the state’s mask mandate, as well as staff who sued 21 other districts over Pritzker’s vaccine requirement. In these cases, staff who refused to be vaccinated also objected to the alternative requirement of regular COVID testing, saying it amounted to a forced medical procedure.

In a 29-page notice, Grischow found that masks, vaccines and testing are all forms of “quarantine” — something that can only be enforced by the state’s public health department or departments. local health authorities, and only after a hearing. Consequently, Grischow explained, students and staff had been deprived of their right to due process by being subject to Pritzker’s decrees.

Grischow also accused the Pritzker administration of trying to end a judicial review by allowing the state board of education to be in charge of rules for masks and vaccines in schools instead. from the Department of Public Health — the only state agency with the authority to quarantine individuals.

“IDPH passed the buck to the schools so as not to trigger the due process protections under [state law],” Grischow wrote. “IDPH cannot delegate its duties and responsibilities to the ISBE and then sit on the sidelines with its hands in the air saying ‘it wasn’t us’. We have not excluded children. We have not imposed vaccines. We haven’t implemented a mask mandate…schools have.

When Pritzker announced his vaccination mandate for school staff in late August – when the peak of the COVID surge in the Delta coincided with the start of the school year – the two teachers’ unions in the state of Illinois stood by the governor, pledging to help individual bargaining units reach agreements with their school districts on how vaccine opt-out options would work for those seeking religious or medical exemptions .

In a statement late Friday, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery urged school districts to continue to uphold safety agreements contained in renegotiated union contracts after Pritzker’s vaccination mandate was announced. .

“We believe what the judge ordered today is legally flawed and poses a threat to public health and, most importantly, a threat to keeping Illinois schools open for in-person learning,” said Montgomery. “Our children and their families need certainty and some normality in school, not legal wrangling handled by a small minority of citizens.”

Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, warned the decision could close schools due to massive infection in buildings if masks are no longer required.

“The shortage of teachers and education employees is at a crisis level,” Griffin said in a statement. “Schools are closing because they don’t have enough healthy staff to run classes safely, even as staff continue to give up their schedules and lunches to cover classes.”

In a statement, Pritzker interpreted Grischow’s decision more narrowly than the judge indicated in his ruling, suggesting it applies only to the districts named in the lawsuits, although a footnote of page in the judge’s opinion stated that she overruled all of the governor’s rules and so it applied to all school districts in Illinois, although he did not grant class certification in the costume earlier in the day.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul chastised Grischow for his decision Friday night when announcing the request for an expedited appeal with Pritzker.

“This decision sends the message that not all students have the same right to safely access Illinois schools and classrooms, especially if they have disabilities or other health conditions. “, said Raoul. “The court’s erroneous decision is wrong in law, demonstrates a misunderstanding of Illinois’ emergency injunction process, and has no bearing on the case before the court. It prioritises to 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 fear of contracting a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 31,000 Illinois residents – or take this virus home to loved ones.

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