Gov. JB Pritzker’s appeal against a lower court’s ruling against mask mandates in schools was denied late Thursday night by an appeals court, which wrote that the request was “moot” because the Governor’s emergency rules on COVID-19 had already expired.
The highly anticipated decision of the three-member panel of the Illinois Fourth District Court of Appeals was released just before midnight Thursday.
Here’s what the decision means for schools in Illinois:
Can schools still require masks in the classroom?
Yes, the court ruling means that the decision of whether or not to require masks and implement individual COVID requirements is up to individual school districts.
The appeals court ruling currently gives schools the ability to enact a mask mandate in the classroom, but it does not affect the enforceability of the governor’s executive orders, according to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
What are Chicago Public Schools doing about masks?
Chicago Public Schools will continue to require face coverings in the classroom, along with other COVID protocols, despite the Illinois appeals court dismissal.
In a statement Friday, CPS officials said the district will continue to mandate masks and COVID vaccinations for staff, as well as requiring students who have tested positive or been exposed to the coronavirus to work at residence.
“Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandatory universal masking. These safety measures have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year. We We will continue to follow these protocols until such time as our public health partners advise us that restrictions can be safely lifted,” the CPS said in a statement.
What about the Archdiocese of Chicago?
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago announced last week that masks will be optional at some schools, citing low coronavirus cases in the district.
In a letter to the families Feb. 8, the archdiocesan superintendent. Greg Richmond wrote that students will no longer be required to wear face coverings in schools located in areas where the local health department does not have a mask mandate.
What was the reasoning behind the Court of Appeal’s decision?
In their decision, the appeal court judges wrote that there was no “real controversy” to be resolved.
“Because the emergency rules voided by the TRO are no longer in effect, a controversy regarding the application of those rules no longer exists. Thus, the case is moot,” the justices wrote.
The judges continued, “We note that the language of the TRO in no way precludes school districts from acting independently of executive orders or IDPH in creating provisions regarding COVID-19.”
The appeals court’s decision hinges on a vote by a bipartisan legislative committee earlier this week not to renew Pritzker’s emergency rules, which first came into effect in September 2021.
On Tuesday, lawmakers who sit on the Joint Administrative Rules Committee voted to temporarily suspend the school mask mandate, three Democrats crossed to vote to end the measure.
On Feb. 4, a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevented the state from enforcing rules that called for mask mandates and other COVID restrictions in schools.
While the state appealed the judge’s temporary restraining order, the rules expired on February 13.
Pritzker said the state will ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision making masks optional in educational settings, noting that the decision did not “address important legal issues “.
A spokesman for Pritzker said Friday the governor was “disappointed” with the appeals court’s decision and was working with the attorney general to seek an expedited Supreme Court review.
“In the meantime, the governor urges everyone to continue to follow doctors’ advice to wear masks so students can continue to learn safely in classrooms, and is encouraged that the court has made it clear that the school districts can continue to keep their own mitigation measures in place,” Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for the governor’s office, said in a statement.
Raoul said in a statement that the appeals court’s decision dealt with the emergency rule-making process used by the Illinois Department of Public Health, nothing the rule impacts. on the governor’s decrees.