Court Dismisses Pritzker’s Appeal Of School Mask Mandate Ruling; Governor Will Take Case To Illinois Supreme Court – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS)– Governor JB Pritzker’s will ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reinstate his statewide school mask mandate, after an Illinois Appellate Court panel dismissed his bid to overturn a temporary restraining order issued by a lower court.

The 4th District of the Illinois Appellate Court late Thursday night ruled the Pritzker’s request to stop the restraining order was moot after a legislative committee this week rejected the Illinois Department of Public Health’s attempt to renew the governor’s emergency rules that require masks in schools.

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“An issue is moot where an actual controversy no longer exists between the parties or where events have occurred that make it impossible for the court to grant effective relief,” court documents said.

Pritzker’s office said he plans to take his appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The Governor is disappointed in the appellate court’s decision and concerned for the health of those in schools – particularly vulnerable children and adults – and the ability to continue in-person learning. The administration is working with the Attorney General to request an expedited review of this decision from the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Governor urges everyone to continue following the doctors’ advice to wear masks so students can remain safely learning in classrooms, and is encouraged that the court made it clear that school districts can continue to keep their own mitigations in place,” spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said Pritzker also could have sought to issue a new school mask mandate, and tried to get it through the legislative rules committee that blocked his renewal of the previous mandate, but taking the case to the state’s highest court is “by far the quickest way to do it.”

“It’s filing paperwork with the Illinois Supreme Court, which I guarantee you the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has already prepared in anticipation of this ruling. I think it’ll be filed today,” Miller said. “The Illinois Supreme Court, being the final highest court in the state of Illinois, they can do whatever they want to do. If they want to have the governor’s order for masks take place, they can issue a quick order. If they want to consider the issue, they can do that. But the bottom line is parents are in limbo right now. Some school districts are saying masks are required, some are saying it’s up to parents. Everyone in the state is in limbo.”

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Miller said the appeals did not rule on whether Pritzker had the authority to issue his statewide school mask mandate, instead finding that because a bipartisan oversight panel in charge of reviewing rules created by state agencies “objected to and suspended” the Illinois Department of Public Health’s renewal of the mandate, those rules are already “null and void” and no longer in effect, making the governor’s appeal of the restraining order moot.

“We’re back to square one. This appellate court did not address the issue of does the governor have the authority to order schools to require masks to schools,” Miller said. “They didn’t address it, they just said, ‘Hey, listen, we don’t think this is a controversy anymore,’ because of what’s happened in the last couple weeks, so we’re just going to say this judge’s order is going to stand, and it’s up to each individual school district to come up with their own rules, own decisions. There’s nothing statewide. District by district will make the rules.”

It’s an issue that has parents divided in districts across the state, as many have demanded schools go mask optional.

Some districts have continued to require masks for all students and staff, while others have done away with masking rules.

Chicago Public Schools announced Friday, COVID safety measures will stay in effect. CPS released the following statement:

“Chicago Public Schools (CPS) stands by our proven COVID-19 safety mitigation measures and is pleased the Appellate Court has confirmed that the Temporary Restraining Order does not prohibit school districts from independently requiring masks, vaccinations for staff, and requiring individuals who have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 to learn/work from home. Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandated universal masking.These safety measures are what have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year. We will continue to follow these protocols until such time as our public health partners advise us that restrictions can be safely lifted.

We are encouraged to see COVID-19 cases dropping, and we remain optimistic about what this will mean for our school communities in the future. Our top priority remains the safety and stability of CPS students, staff, and families.”

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As for other school districts, Miller suggested parents contact their district to find out what their rules for masks will be.

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