State: 21 school districts on probation for not complying with mask mandate
Since last week, the Illinois State Board of Education has put 21 school districts on probation for flouting a universal mask mandate for students ordered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Aug. 4 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
None are in Chicago or the suburbs, now that Illinois has restored the status of Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst after pulling its recognition status Aug. 11.
The 21 districts "confirmed that they were not complying with the universal indoor masking requirement," ISBE spokeswoman Jaklyn Matthews said. "These districts now have the opportunity to meet with ISBE and to submit a corrective action plan to address the deficiencies that are presenting a danger to students and staff.
"School districts that do not submit an approvable plan will lose recognition status, meaning total loss of access to state funding and the inability to participate in IHSA and IESA sports."
Losing recognition status also means that graduating seniors' diplomas will not be acknowledged by the state.
The districts are in Adams, Clay, Clinton, Edwards, Effingham, Franklin, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Jefferson, Knox, Livingston, Macon, Marion, Peoria, Randolph, Wayne and Winnebago counties. Disciplinary actions occurred between Aug. 12 and Monday. All are public school districts.
In the suburbs, Timothy Christian officials have agreed to require masks for staff and students, Illinois officials said.
One other private school in Williamson County had its recognition status pulled last week but agreed on Monday to comply with mask requirements, and the state is waiting for verification documents, Matthews said.
"Masking is a safe, easy, and effective way to ensure all students can attend school in-person this fall, where they can learn and grow to their fullest potential," she said.
"We will continue to act swiftly with both nonpublic and public schools that have confirmed they are not implementing universal indoor masking as required by" Pritzker's order, Matthews said. "ISBE will not compromise students' health and safety."
One lawsuit filed in Clinton County Aug. 9 on behalf of a parent contends the state is not empowered to tell local districts what to do.
"No such authority has ever been delegated to Pritzker" by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, the lawsuit filed by attorney Thomas Devore states. The law contains no language granting the governor "the authority to usurp the control of the local school district," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics are recommending masks inside to keep kids safe in schools as the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 is surging across the U.S.
Children ages 11 and younger are not yet eligible for vaccinations.