Students at Vernon Hills High School walked out Monday and Tuesday as the school stood by its decision to continue requiring masks following a recent court ruling.
On Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow “deemed null and void” the governor’s emergency rules through the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) concerning COVID-19 mitigations for schools.
Community High School District 128, which includes Libertyville High School and Vernon Hills High School, announced on Sunday they would continue to enforce the mask mandate and quarantine restrictions for all students, staff and visitors except for students named as plaintiffs.
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.
District 128 was one of 146 school districts in the state that were named as defendants.
“The masking, along with all of the D128 Prevention Strategies, has allowed both Libertyville and Vernon Hills High School to remain open for in-person learning and extracurricular activities,” Superintendent Denise Herrmann said.
On Monday, District 128 students arrived at school unmasked “as a sign of our desire for freedom from the mask mandate,” a statement from Student Voices Unmasked, which is apparently run by District 128 students, said.
Students were escorted to a gymnasium where Vernon Hills High School Principal Jonathan Guillaume addressed them and gave them three options.
“We could put on a mask and attend class. If we chose to remain maskless, we could either stay in the gym all day or be removed from school for the day as a mental health day,” Student Voices Unmasked said.
Many students decided to leave school for the day, a video posted by Jon Kerr, founder of The Kerr Report, showed.
Students also walked out for a second day on Tuesday. Students at Libertyville High School also walked out of school in protest.
“We respect the District’s position. But we also disagree with it. Most of us in this group have spent most of our high school lives behind these masks. For the younger students, their entire high school experience has been covered in masks. We believe it is time for this to end,” Student Voices Unmasked said.
The group is urging school officials to change their position on the mandate.
Lake Forest school districts 67 and 115, which were both named as defendants in the lawsuit, announced they are not requiring masks in their schools but will continue to recommend them.
Several other school districts in the Chicago area have announced they will not require students or staff to wear masks following the ruling.
On Monday, Pritzker slammed Grischow’s ruling and called it “out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis in Illinois and across the nation.”
He said the ruling “cultivates chaos” and he has urged Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to overturn it “with all possible speed.”
“As high school students, many of us are soon graduating and going on to hopefully be the leaders of tomorrow,” Student Voices Unmasked said.
“We also know that as this mask mandate continues, time is running out on our high school experiences. We realize throughout our lives, there will be many situations where we will be forced to make decisions. To take a stand. We believe that time is now. We encourage you to stand with us,” the group said.