By: Kuni Isaac
The state of Illinois has appealed a Feb. 17 decision from the 4th District appeals court which effectively rejected state rules requiring masks in schools.
The appellate court ruling left in place a temporary restraining order from a lower court that bars about 170 school districts around Illinois from enforcing COVID-19 mitigations required by the state. These include vaccination rules for teachers and staff, mask requirements and guidelines for “exclusion” — the practice of telling students and staff to remain home if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
The restraining order also voided several administrative rules governing these mitigations.
The legal challenge is being led by Tom DeVore, an attorney with a history of suing the state over COVID-19 mitigations who is now running to be the state’s top lawyer.
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On Feb. 15, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee unanimously rejected a renewal of the wants at the guts of the lawsuit. Because of this, the appeals court rejected Pritzker’s initial appeal.
“A controversy regarding the appliance of these rules not exists,” wrote the three judge appeals court panel. “Thus, the matter is moot.”
Gov. JB Pritzker has criticized the legal process, saying that the first restraining order was “political.”
“The appeals court — due to the will of the legislature to punt, frankly — decided they might punt too,” said Pritzker.
The state’s lawyers argued in their Tuesday filing with the Supreme Court that there’s actually still an unanswered legal question on whether Pritzker’s executive orders regarding COVID-19 rules in schools are still enforceable.
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All of this comes after Pritzker announced that the state is lifting mask mandates for most indoor spaces. He has indicated that schools also will have lifted mask mandates soon also .
“I’ve said for several weeks now that we might be removing the need for masks in schools,” said Pritzker at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday.
Instead, he said this is about addressing the question of how the state should handle “the next emergency.”