State Board of Education Warns of ‘Liability' Concerns After IHSA's Basketball Vote

After the Illinois High School Association voted to allow its winter basketball season to proceed in spite of new guidance from the state’s health department, the State Board of Education warned that moving forward with the spot could have serious consequences.

In a letter published Wednesday night, Dr. Carmen Ayala, the Superintendent of Education for the state of Illinois, warned that the IHSA’s plan to defy the new guidelines would have serious ramifications.

“Defying the state’s public health guidance opens schools up to liability and other ramifications that may negatively impact school communities,” the letter read, in part. “We are relying on superintendents and school leaders to make responsible choices to protect health and safety and to focus on bringing all of our students back to the classroom.”

The warning comes after the IHSA board voted Wednesday to move forward with plans to contest basketball games this winter. Practices would be cleared to begin on Nov. 16 and games would be permitted to start on Nov. 30 under the proposal.

The decision leaves it up to individual school districts to determine whether or not they will participate in basketball this winter.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by the Illinois Department of Public Health Tuesday that re-classified basketball as a “higher-risk” sport under the state’s guidelines for athletics during the coronavirus pandemic. As such, schools would only be permitted to conduct non-contact practices and workouts for basketball under state guidelines.

The IHSA voiced its disagreement with the IDPH classification, saying that its own health council has said that basketball has a “medium risk level,” and that schools will be able to play.

“The board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization,” the IHSA said in a statement. “On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states who have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread.”

According to the IHSA, all athletes, coaches and officials will be required to wear masks when they compete in basketball games this winter.

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