Very early Monday morning, the Illinois Attorney General filed an appeal against an order tossing the statewide COVID-19 mask mandate in schools — with Gov. JB Pritzker saying the judge’s ruling cultivates chaos. CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reports. YouTube Tips ⓘ
With Illinois’ school mask mandate paused by court order, some children are going to school for the first time since the beginning of COVID-19 with the choice of whether to wear a mask. The attorney that brought the lawsuit challenging the mandate said if his clients are being discriminated against, there will be consequences.
Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow on Friday issued a temporary restraining order against mask and exclusion rules for students and vaccine or testing mandates for teachers. While the ruling is for parties who brought the case, Grishow found the governor’s executive orders on the issue “null and void” and that school districts should govern themselves accordingly.
Grishow said Gov. J.B. Pritzker ’s executive orders attempting to circumvent individual due process to challenge quarantine orders is a “type of evil” the law was meant to combat.
Pritzker Monday said the judge’s order is “out of step” and his executive orders for mask and exclusion policies in schools has nothing to do with due process in state law.
“That requires due process, 48 hours, after someone is asked to wear a mask, the judge has misread this,” Pritzker said. “The people that are suing have misread this.”
Governor Pritzker singled out a Sangamon County judge and criticized her for “poor legal reasoning” after she struck down his statewide mask mandate in school classrooms. YouTube Tips ⓘ
The judge’s ruling and COVID-19 are creating chaos, Pritzker said. School districts across the state scrambled over the weekend on how to handle the rulings. Some districts went remote, others said they are “encouraging” masks, not mandating them, while other districts that have had masks optional all year continued operating as they have.
“We’re getting an appeal heard as soon as possible so that we can rid ourselves of the fog of a frankly not good decision by the Sangamon County Court,” Pritzker said.
The Illinois Attorney General filed an appeal in the case on behalf of the governor in the Fourth District Court of Appeals. It could be early next week before a decision is made by the appellate court on whether to stay the restraining order while the case proceeds.
Attorney Thomas DeVore, who brought the challenges, countered Pritzker saying nothing has been “misread” and the governor is “gaslighting” by trying to sell a different reality.
“He created the chaos by going down these arbitrary, authoritarian dictates of an executive with intimidation and coercion and manipulation of people,” DeVore told The Center Square.
Some districts have had mask optional policies all year and have been targeted by the Illinois State Board of Education with suspension and possible loss of recognition status, a move that could result in a loss of state tax dollars.
A spokesperson for ISBE didn’t directly respond when asked if the agency will still pursue punishment of schools that are mask optional, with the governor’s orders found null and void. Instead, ISBE sent a statement State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala sent school districts Sunday.
“ISBE continues to support the state’s mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students and school personnel safe,” the statement said in part. “If necessary, school districts may enter into adaptive pause consistent with the guidance issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health and ISBE.”
Chicago Public Schools announced a collective bargaining agreement they’ve had in place with teachers that will keep masks mandated. DeVore wants to pick that apart some more.
“It’s possible that as a collective bargaining body the teachers could have waived some of their rights,” DeVore said, “but under well established .. jurisprudence, the teachers union and the school district cannot engage in contractual obligations that waive the rights of students and the parents.”
Earlier Monday, DeVore indicated he’d file contempt charges against the CPS, but he retracted that after hearing that his clients are not being harassed for not wearing masks. But in a different district, DeVore said he’s trying to discern if another client is being held out of class in an auditorium with dozens of other maskless students that aren’t his clients. If so, he said he won’t hesitate.
“I want to make sure that I’m 100% accurate before I go and [file for contempt against the district] because I’m going to be asking the judge for penalties up to and including jail time if these people are actually violating [the judge’s] court order,” DeVore said. “So, we’re going to be taking it serious.”
Pritzker on Monday said he’s seeking an appeal of the restraining order, instead of demanding the state Legislature pass a law requiring masks.
“This is all conversation that’s been going on for quite some time now,” Pritzker said. “The legislature has taken time to weigh in, people have.”
But no legislation has been passed requiring masks in schools or changing due process in law that the judge cited in restricting enforcement. Messages seeking reaction from the House Speaker and Senate President’s office were not returned.
DeVore said just talking about it with legislative leaders isn’t how the legislature works.
“That’s not our system of government,” DeVore said. “You convene in the General Assembly and you let the people watch, and you let them see. You don’t have these side conversations with leaders of the party. That’s how tyrants operate. That’s not how governing bodies work.”
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