Lawsuit over school masks mandates continues even after mandates lifted

Lawsuit over school masks mandates continues even after mandates lifted

SPRINGFIELD, IL — While masks are no longer mandated in most public settings, including daycare and after-school programs, the legal battle over the governor’s authority to mandate such things continues.

From Friday morning to Friday evening, Gov. J.B. Pritzker abruptly changed his stance on requiring masks in schools. He said he still has the authority to put restrictions in place as the case continues in court.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Friday. The new guidance said masks are recommended in high-transmission areas. Late Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear Pritzker’s appeal of a challenge to his mandate. The state’s highest court also vacated a lower court’s temporary restraining order over the rule. On Monday, Pritzker praised that decision.

“The result of which is, if we need to, if we see another variant that is making people ill, that we would be able to impose a mask requirement, but we don’t have any intention to do that now,” Pritzker said Monday at Navy Pier in Chicago. “Things seem to be pretty good.”

Attorney Thomas DeVore, who brought the case on behalf of more than 700 parents, said the temporary restraining order was vacated because the appeals court ruled Pritzker’s appeal moot after the rule was blocked by a state legislative panel.

“[The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules] has suspended the rules and the issue of inherent authority is not really squarely in front of us, we don’t need to address it,” DeVore told WMAY Monday. “That’s what happened and the governor is trying to spin it otherwise.”

Hundreds of schools in the past month have made masks optional, even though the governor only lifted his mandate Friday.

Pritzker said he still has the authority to mandate masks, and so do local schools like Chicago Public Schools. CPS plans to continue mandating masks “for now.”

“We are in the process of reviewing the latest masking guidelines from the [CDC] and are working with our labor and public health partners on how to preserve a safe, healthy learning environment for all as we transition into this new phase of the pandemic,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement.

DeVore said individual due process to challenge issues of quarantine – like masks, exclusion, and vaccine or testing – is violated by universal mandates.

“We’re going to make it crystal clear that the governor has no power now and in the future and that these school districts don’t have that inherent authority,” DeVore said. “We’re gonna put this issue to rest so these children don’t have to worry about this going into the next school year.”

DeVore said he expects nearly 1,000 more plaintiffs to be added as the case continues in circuit court.

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