File Photo – Lake Forest High School | Photo: Google Street View

Lake Forest High School and Lake Forest elementary schools say they will comply with a recent court ruling and will not require masks or exclude students from school who are COVID close contacts.

In a 30-page ruling late Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow deemed the governor’s emergency rules through the Illinois Department of Public Health “null and void” when it comes to COVID-19 mitigations in schools.

“The arbitrary method as to contact tracing and masking in general continue to raise fair questions as to the legality of the Executive Orders in light of violations of healthy children’s substantive due process rights,” Grischow said in the ruling.

“Statutory rights have attempted to be bypassed through the issuance of Executive Orders and Emergency Rules … This type of evil is exactly what the law was intended to constrain,” Grischow said.

Schools impacted by litigation brought by more than 700 parents and dozens of school staff are temporarily restrained from enforcing Pritzker’s COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.

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Approximately 150 of Illinois’ 840 school districts were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Those school districts named in the suit are restrained from requiring masks if a person objects, “except during the terms of lawful order of quarantine issued from their respective health department, in accordance with the IDPH Act.”

The named school districts in the suit are also restrained from refusing attendance to students who are deemed a “close contact” of a confirmed COVID-19 case, and the schools cannot require their staff to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

Because Grischow ruled that IDPH and ISBE’s emergency rules are void, school districts in the state who were not part of the lawsuit can “govern themselves accordingly,” Grischow said.

Lake Forest school districts 67 and 115 were both named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Matthew L. Montgomery, who is the superintendent for District 67 and District 115, said the two school districts will “fully comply” with the court’s ruling.

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Effective Monday, the two districts will not require masks in their schools but will continue to recommend masks for their students and staff.

Special accommodations will be made for medically-fragile students, Montgomery said. “Please reach out to your student’s case manager, counselor, or building principal if your student falls in this category.”

Any staff member or student who is considered a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case will be “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask while at school, monitor symptoms and be tested if any symptoms appear but will not be subject to exclusion, Montgomery said.

Any isolations issued specifically by the Lake County Health Department must be upheld by students and staff, school officials said.

Masks are still required for all students on all school buses based on the current federal mandate, Montgomery said.

“There are many perspectives on this issue. Regardless of your family or personal choice about masking, I am asking everyone to lead with kindness. It is critically important that we are respectful of each other’s personal decisions. We will not tolerate bullying or disrespectful behavior of any kind,” Montgomery said.

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Gov. JB Pritzker said his administration is appealing the ruling and there would be “grave consequences” due to the ruling.

“The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities – and this may force schools to go remote,” Pritzker said in a statement.

“This shows yet again that the mask mandate and school exclusion protocols are essential tools to keep schools open and everyone safe. As we have from the beginning of the pandemic, the administration will keep working to ensure every Illinoisan has the tools needed to keep themselves and their loved ones safe,” Pritzker said.