Court’s restraining order on school mask mandates, district response


Tabitha Irvin

NO MORE MASKS: A security guard checks on mask-less student protesters in Room 050

Tabitha Irvin, In-depth Editor


COVID-19 masking policies in American high schools have long been debated around the country. In Illinois, this controversy heightened when attorney Thomas DeVore, on behalf of over 700 parents, filed a class action lawsuit against Governor J.B. Pritzer and his executive order on mandatory masking. 

The case, first heard Nov. 5 in the 7th District Circuit Court, was decided Friday. The verdict: a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Pritzker’s mask mandate. The governor and Illinois attorney general, however, quickly asked for an expedited appeal, which has yet to declare it’s decision.

Pritzker, in an official statement Friday, stressed his dislike of the decision, calling it “misguided” and indicative of “grave consequence.” The Illinois Federation of Teachers also released a statement of distress; they claimed a TRO on in-school masking is “legally faulty” and a “threat to public health.”

Contrary to popular belief, however, the judge’s decision is not a ban on mandatory masking. The ruling of Raylene Grishow, the presiding judge of the lawsuit, specifies that the TRO attacked Pritzker’s authority to issue an executive masking order, not the authority of individual schools. 


District Responses

Various school districts throughout the state have responded in different ways, which is proof that much remains uncertain about the TRO and how it pertains to individual districts. For example, Arlington Heights District 25 and South Suburban Burbank District 111 are now mask-recommended but not required. Many private schools, including Benet and St. Ignatius, are also mask optional. 

Others, such as Lyons Township High School District 204 and Vernon Hills District 128, will continue to enforce mask mandates. Some districts, specifically CPS, await further clarification due to their unique collective bargaining situation with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). 



District 99 is not immune to the TRO ruling and the ensuing state-wide confusion, but has opted to remain mask-mandatory. This decision, according to Superintendent Hank Thiele, is subject to change. 

“It is possible that additional clarification on the current rules are provided that cause District 99 to reaffirm or consider changing current rules. [However], unless a different clarification is provided, it is our understanding of the current judge’s ruling that the existing rules approved by the Board of Education remain fully in effect as they were put in place prior to the Governor’s Executive Orders,” Superintendent Hank Thiele specified. 

District 99’s response was also communicated Monday with students, staff and parents, which is being protested by many in both DGN and DGS. Some mask-less students are currently held in Room 050 along with other locations throughout the building, where they attend class asynchronously. Thiele understands the controversy surrounding COVID-19 masks but focuses on policy, not politics. 

“I imagine that for as long as an active response to the pandemic is underway, there will be divided perspectives on how to respond to it. There has been no change in our response to masking, as our policies have not changed.”

Thiele and the rest of the District 99 BOE plans to discuss the current COVID-19 protocols (in place since Aug. 2) at the next board meeting. Although the regularly scheduled BOE meeting is set to occur Feb. 28, due to the intense nature of the controversy, the board has ordered a special meeting for Feb. 14 to address mask-mandates.