Dist 117 Offers Limited Mask Optional Period Following Mask TRO

By Jeremy Coumbes on February 7, 2022 at 3:34pm

School districts in the area are grappling with how to interpret and implement a temporary restraining order recently issued by a Sangamon County judge.

Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow says students attending 170 school districts named in a lawsuit brought by Southern Illinois Attorney Thomas DeVore won’t have to wear a mask if they don’t want to unless they’re given due process.

The 30-page ruling was issued late Friday evening and has left districts scrambling over the weekend. District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek sent an announcement Sunday night to update on how the ruling affects students in the district.

After meeting with the District’s legal counsel over the weekend, Ptacek says they have advised that the TRO does not apply to all students and only applies to named students in the case since Judge Grischow denied a petition to certify all students as a class in the suit.

Governor J.B. Pritzker has asked for a stay on the ruling while an appeal is made to the Illinois Appellate Court. The stay could be ruled on as early as today, while the appeal is anticipated to be considered as early as within the next two weeks.

Ptacek says “Given the fact that a ruling might soon clarify the issue, we are not going to ruin years of great partnering with the community during this short window of confusion over this one very dividing and controversial issue.”

Ptacek says during this time between rulings, District 117 will offer a limited mask-optional period. Parents need to provide written permission to have their student not wear a mask. Elementary students can give it to their teachers, JMS and JHS students need to carry it.

Ptacek says one of his largest concerns is to respect others that wish to wear a mask. Peer pressure should not be a factor in a person’s decision, and there are some staff and students with medical concerns over the virus so please respect their concerns.

He says when a ruling is finalized, the ruling will be followed. Masks will still be required on buses as it is a federal requirement.