Students returning to Illinois classrooms are learning what can happen if they don’t wear a mask.
Sheri Urlacher said her freshman daughter, NaTallia, was suspended for a day by Fremd High School in Palatine after she “politely declined” a face covering on the first day of school.
“If her pediatrician and our doctors tell her she shouldn’t wear a mask, that’s who I’m going to listen to,” Urlacher said. “I’m never going to take health advice from any school, administrator, school district or even our Governor.”
Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker recently issued a statewide mask mandate for elementary and high schools as the pandemic continues.
Urlacher said she questions the Governor’s power in this case.
“We want to know why our children are being disciplined or bullied into wearing a mask when they’re not sick,” Urlacher said.
Illinois law gives the governor the ability to pass laws if it is necessary for public safety and schools must comply, according to Sonia Bychkov Green of University of Illinois Chicago Law.
“In keeping with the spirit of the law, they have to do their best to enforce the mask mandate,” Green said. “How they do that, specifically, what sorts of penalties they have, that’s up to the school and that’s where the schools do have some leeway.”
We asked Pritzker's office to respond to concerns about the mask mandate raised by parents. A spokesperson for the office pointed us to a comment the governor made on Tuesday.
"School districts have been enforcing dress codes for many, many years and so they’re expected to do the same thing they’ve been doing literally for decades and I expect that people will do the right thing, nonetheless, and not put their school district in a difficult situation of having to tell somebody, 'follow the rules,'" Pritzker said.
A spokesperson for District 211 said the district is required to enforce the state’s mask mandate and a student’s refusal to wear a mask poses a potential threat to the safety of other students and staff.
Urlacher, sister of Chicago Bears football legend Brian Urlacher, tweeted about her daughter’s suspension and said she is receiving support.
Meanwhile, she said her daughter returned to school the next day.
“I basically told her do what the other kids are doing and wear a mask underneath your nose and as far as you can off your mouth so that your breathing is not restricted,” Urlacher said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people should not wear a mask under their nose. Rather, the CDC encourages people to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while secured under their chin.