ISBE Changes Mask Mandate Enforcement for Private Schools Amid Ongoing Lawsuits

By Benjamin Cox on October 7, 2021 at 8:36am

The Illinois State Board of Education has changed its process for enforcing the governor’s mask mandate for private schools.

According to WICS Newschannel 20, as of Friday, private schools have a probationary period to regain their recognition if they are found to be noncompliant with the mask mandate, as opposed to losing it immediately. ISBE told WICS that the reason for the change was to make the process equitable between public and private schools.

The unfairness of the process of recognition being pulled was brought up by Republican members of the General Assembly’s JCAR in September during a rules committee hearing. In a press release, ISBE says the change is meant to give private schools more time to work with ISBE on coming in to compliance.

Schools are required to submit a corrective action plan within 60 days of a conference with members of ISBE about their noncompliance, similar to the process public schools are required to go through. Seven private schools have regained their recognition, while 8 are now listed on probation.

This all comes on the heals of 3 Central Illinois School districts suing ISBE over enforcement of the governor’s mask mandate. The Cowden-Herrick, Beecher City, and Red Hill school districts filed a lawsuit alleging that ISBE doesn’t have the authority to strip their recognition based on whether the schools adhere to the mandate.

Red Hill is currently in compliance with the governor’s mask mandate, while Beecher City and Cowden-Herrick remain on probation, according to ISBE’s website. If the schools win in court, it would only restore recognition for these 3 schools and not change the overall enforcement policy.

The attorney representing the schools, Tom DeVore, says the case questions whether ISBE has the authority to pull recognition for not complying with an executive order. In the last several weeks, the courts have sided with ISBE in similar arguments. The case heads to court this afternoon.