News & Politics

Illinois Governor's Mask Mandate for Students Slapped Down in Court

(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Four school districts in southern Illinois have been restrained from imposing quarantine without the health department’s order in an ongoing legal battle. As a result, they’ve all been court-ordered to resume in-person learning and to refrain from sending students home when they claim students have been exposed to COVID. But now, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s (D-IL) mask mandate for students has also been slapped down in court in two school districts and defined as a type of quarantine.

Schools began operating under a “mask optional” policy in the beginning of the year until Governor Pritzker issued an order that schools were required to mandate masks for all students. A group of parents brought legal action against Teutopolis Unit 50 School District and Carlyle Community School District, alleging that the law had been circumvented and that the school districts do not have the power to enforce the mandate.

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An Illinois judge has ruled with the parents that masking students or separating unmasked students is a form of quarantine that only the health department has the power to enforce. Illinois Leaks has the story:

While the Children are on school property, the Defendants, are enjoined from requiring any or all of the Children to utilize any type of device, including a mask, for the purposes of allegedly preventing the spread of an infectious disease unless an order of quarantine has issues against any or all of the Children from the local health department as required by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Illinois Leaks examined the Illinois Administrative Code and found that masking meets the definition of a modified quarantine.

“Quarantine, Modified” – A selective, partial limitation of freedom of movement or actions of a person or group of persons who are or may have been exposed to a contagious disease or possibly contagious disease. Modified quarantine is designed to meet particular situations and includes, but is not limited to, the exclusion of children from school, the prohibition or restriction from engaging in a particular occupation or using public or mass transportation, or requirements for the use of devices or procedures intended to limit disease transmission. Any travel within Illinois outside of the jurisdiction of the local health authority must be either approved by the Director or be under mutual agreement of the health authority of the jurisdiction and the public health official who will assume responsibility. Travel outside Illinois shall require written notice from the Illinois jurisdiction to the out-of-state jurisdiction that will assume responsibility.

Attorney Tom DeVore argued successfully that a mask is a device intended to limit disease transmission. The enforced use of the device is limited to the power established by law for quarantine through the local health departments. School districts have no power to demand by their own authority that children wear masks.

DeVore is not finished with his legal fight against the improper wielding of power over citizens and told Kirk Allen of Illinois Leaks that he will soon be challenging vaccine mandates and testing mandates under the same code.

“An invasive test for COVID is also a type of procedure,” he said. “We have clients—teachers, health care workers, etc—across the state who will be bringing these exact same causes of action saying that a procedure by definition to limit the spread is a type of quarantine requiring an order of the health department.”

So far, in Illinois, this is a winning argument. Enterprising lawyers in other states should be digging through their quarantine codes to find out if this is applicable everywhere.