The state plans to appeal the decision.
A Sangamon County Circuit Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order reducing Illinois school’s ability to require that students receive vaccinations or wear masks to class.
According to The State Journal-Register, Judge Raylene Grischow’s order comes in response to several lawsuits filed by Greenville-based attorney Thomas DeVore, who is representing hundreds of parents opposed to wide-ranging, coronavirus-related restrictions across the state.
Grischow’s temporary restraining order will void emergency health rules issued by the state Board of Education, which require that education staff either subject to regular coronavirus tests or receive vaccinations. The same order will also mitigate Illinois Department of Public Health guidance ordering schools to “exclude” students who have either tested positive for novel coronavirus or have had “close contact” with someone who has.
Since Grischow’s ruling went public, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said the attorney general’s office will seek an “expedited appeal.”
“The grave consequences of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities—and this may force schools to go remote,” Pritzker said.
The State Journala-Register notes that Grischow’s order also prevents the approximately 170 school districts named in DeVore’s lawsuit from enforcing mask requirements and other exclusion rules for students.
In her ruling, Grischow suggested that Illinois’ school-specific coronavirus rules may circumvent the legislative process.
“If the Legislature was of the opinion that the public health laws as written were not satisfactory to protect public health from COVID, it has had adequate opportunity to change the law since March 2020,” Grischow wrote in a 29-page ruling.
However, state education officials and advocates have said that Grischow’s decision has the potential to seriously endanger students and staff—and that the state may be forced to stop in-person classes altogether.
“The judge’s ruling today calls into question the safety of schools across the state and we will support all efforts to stop its immediate implementation while state and district defendants pursue an appeal,” Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said in a statement. “Keeping learning and working conditions safe inside schools is imperative to keep our communities safe and our school buildings open for in person learning.”
However, the verdict was not a uniform win for DeVore and his clients. While Grischow issued a restraining order against many of Illinois’ school-related coronavirus rules and restrictions, she denied DeVore’s motions to certify two class action lawsuits against the state, noting that the complaints in their current form would not accurately represent the varied interests of parents, teachers, and students, many of whom do support the state government’s coronavirus mitigation policies.