Chicago Public Schools

CPS Responds After Restraining Order Issued in School Mask Mandate Suit

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Following a decision by a downstate judge to implement a restraining order barring schools from enforcing mask mandates and other COVID-19 testing requirements, Chicago Public Schools detailed how the district will be impacted.

In a statement from CPS Saturday afternoon, the district said the court's ruling does not limit its power to enforce coronavirus restrictions for students and teachers.

"The court’s current ruling does not prohibit CPS from exercising its authority to continue its COVID-19 mitigation policies and procedures, including universal masking by students and staff and vaccination and testing requirements for staff members," CPS said in a statement.

The district added that 53% of CPS students age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against the virus and 1 in 3 students ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose. As of Saturday, more than 91% of CPS staff members are fully vaccinated.

On Friday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked that the state Attorney General's office immediately appeal Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow's decision, saying it was "misguided" and schools may be forced to go remote if they don't have proper tools to keep students and staff safe.

Earlier on Friday, Grischow granted a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit filed against Pritzker, the Illinois State Board of Education and more than 140 school districts by parents who argued there was no due process regarding Illinois' mask order in schools.

The ruling states defendants are temporarily restrained from ordering school districts to require masks for students and teachers - unless a quarantine order is issued by a local health department.

School districts, the ISBE and Pritzker are also barred from requiring unvaccinated individuals who work in Illinois schools to provide weekly negative results of a COVID-19 test or be vaccinated to enter a school building.

Additionally, school districts can't refuse admittance to teachers and students deemed a "close contact" of a probable COVID-19 case without due process of law, court documents stated.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul said that he's committed to defending Pritzker's actions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and will appeal the decision in the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District.

The decision, he stated, is "is wrong on the law" and "demonstrates a misunderstanding of Illinois emergency injunction proceedings."

"It prioritizes a relatively small group of plaintiffs who refuse to follow widely-accepted science over the rights of other students, faculty and staff to enter schools without the fear of contracting a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 31,000 Illinois residents – or taking that virus home to their loved ones.”

It remains unclear if the ruling applies to all students who attend districts mentioned in the lawsuit or just students involved in the legal battle.

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