Illinois school mask mandate lawsuit dismissed

Republican attorney general candidate Thomas DeVore is claiming victory after a Springfield judge last week dismissed his lawsuit challenging the state’s mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions for schools that were canceled months ago.

In fact, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Relynn Grishaw ruled Friday that Devore’s lawsuit against the state and more than 100 school districts was controversial because the policies had not been implemented for several months.

The latest COVID-19 guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the State Board of Education, which “supersedes all prior COVID-19 guidance, is exactly that — guidance,” Grisho wrote. “School districts are encouraged to follow the combined guidance; But there is no mandate.”

In addition, Grisho wrote, the school districts named as defendants in the lawsuit “have no policy mandating masks or exclusion from school due to close contact.” Arguing for dismissal of the case, the state said that with the changing nature of the pandemic, it is unlikely that such policies will be reinstated.

Still, in a fundraising email on Monday, DeVore took credit for the end of the school’s COVID-19 mandate. “Thank you for refusing to let the state run on you and Tom’s dedication, most of your kids may not be required to go to school to comply with the mask and exclusion mandate!” His campaign wrote in a fundraising email.

The email, with the subject line “The Good News…” also claimed that the Attorney General’s office “acknowledged to judge that the state’s (COVID-19) guidance has always been nothing but recommendations. “

In court last week, the attorney general’s office argued only that the current state guidance is voluntary, not that previous mandates were never enforceable.

During the hearing, Darren Kinkade of the Attorney General’s Office specifically referred to the “question of new guidance” and said: “The operative word: ‘guidance.’ Just recommendations and suggestions from the state that may or may not be implemented by school districts going forward. … I think if you read that guidance it’s clear that it’s not binding on anyone at all.”

“With respect to the state, there is no matter or dispute relating to the new guidance or the old guidance,” Kinkade said.

At an event Tuesday in Springfield, Devore stood by his claim, pointing to the phrase “old guidance” as evidence of the state’s admission.

But the state’s written motion to dismiss makes several references to Pritzker’s previous orders, which it said were “based on their constitutional and statutory authority” and “obliged school districts” to comply. The state argued that the trial should be dismissed as there is no longer a mandate.

Accepting the state’s request, Grischo wrote that it did not have grounds to rule on the merits of mandates that are no longer in effect.

“Illinois courts, as a general rule, do not adjudicate controversial questions or provide advisory opinions,” she wrote.

An attorney general spokeswoman said the office was “pleased with Judge Grishaw’s order,” which halts litigation with the state over a mandate that expired months ago.

Despite those mandates being long overdue, “Mr. DeVore has spent the summer pursuing his baseless lawsuit at the expense of Illinois taxpayers,” spokeswoman Anne Thompson said in a statement.

A spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raul’s campaign, who is running for a second term against DeVore in November, called DeVore “a highly-controversial lawyer who is allergic to the truth.”

Campaign spokeswoman Maura Posley said in a statement, “Tom DeVore argued in court against the state’s motion to dismiss for more than two hours and now claims victory when his lawsuits were dismissed with prejudice.” , permanently barred them from registering cases again.”

While DeVore’s fundraising email said he would continue the case against the 35 districts not included in Grishaw’s order, he said Tuesday that he had already heard from several districts that they were no longer implementing the policies. and he will proceed to dismiss them from the case.

“To the extent that our school districts do not implement these universal policies or the governor tries to re-enact the mandate, we will go on with life, at least from a legal standpoint,” he said.

There has never been a final court ruling on the merits of DeVore’s lawsuit challenging the Pritzker’s right to issue mandates for schools. Grisho issued a temporary restraining order in February halting the enforcement of the mask mandate and exclusion policies.

The case eventually reached the Illinois Supreme Court, but in the interim, a Legislative panel refuses to renew Public Health Department rules Which serves as part of the basis of the mask mandate.

Supreme Court quashes Grisho’s order But without deciding on the merits of the arguments, the case was sent back to the lower court, allowing both DeVore and Pritzker to claim victory.

On the same day the state Supreme Court issued its decision in late February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its masking guidelines, including in schools. The time came for Pritzker to add schools to the list of places where masks would no longer be required.

The state on Friday further adjusted its guidelines for the new school year to align with the latest recommendations from the CDC, which no longer recommends routine testing in schools or quarantining for people who have been exposed to the virus, But not showing symptoms or testing positive.

Jeremy Gorner of the Chicago Tribune reported from Springfield.

[email protected]

[email protected]

Leave a Comment