Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has preemptively sued to obtain court approval to require children to wear masks when schools reopen in the fall.
“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a prepared statement, according to The Associated Press.
While no one has sued over the state policy, two private schools and a public district have told the state Board of Education Pritzker does not have the power to require masks during the pandemic.
Thomas DeVore, an attorney representing southeastern Illinois’s Hutsonville Community School District No. 1 as well as Yorkville’s Parkview Christian Academy and Channahon’s Families of Faith Christian Academy said in letters to the state board last month that a 1922 Illinois Supreme Court ruling held governors cannot impose rules that “merely have a tendency to prevent” community spread of disease.
DeVore said Pritzker has said no enforcement mechanism is in place for violations of the mask guidelines, which he said made them “recommendations” rather than rules.
Pritzker preemptively filed the lawsuit to settle the question ahead of time, Ann Spillane, his chief legal counsel, told the AP.
“Students need to prepare, parents need to know what’s coming, administrators need guidelines. Confusion on these things leads to risk,” she told the news service. “We’re sending a signal that this issue is not up for debate. The governor doesn’t have an option.”
Pritzker’s guidelines for in-person classes have also drawn concern from the state’s teachers unions about their capacity to keep students and faculty socially distanced, according to the AP. Illinois announced a further 25 deaths and 1,257 coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the total deaths to more than 7,250 during the pandemic.