Maine South parents, students protest continued masking

 
By Tracy Gruen
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 2/12/2022 5:09 PM

Parents and students who oppose Maine Township High School District 207's decision to keep masks in place while a temporary restraining order against the governor's mandate is appealed protested at last Monday's school board meeting.

Additionally, 75 students at Maine South High School in Park Ridge demonstrated against the mask mandate Tuesday. District 207 Director of Communications Brett Clark said many of the protesters walked through the hallway shouting obscenities, and several students walked off campus during school hours.

 

On Feb. 4, Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow granted a temporary restraining order blocking schools from enforcing Gov. J.B. Pritzker's mask mandate, saying the mitigation amounted to a kind of "quarantine" and that the administration overstepped its bounds.

District 207 is among the suburban districts that is keeping a masking mandate in place while awaiting the appellate court's ruling.

Pritzker himself has said he would like to end the mandate within a few weeks, if COVID-related hospitalizations in Illinois continue to fall.

Some District 207 parents at the meeting suggested continuing the mandate now is against the law.

"Nobody wants anybody sick, hurt or dying, but there comes a point when following the rule of law is what should be done," said Irene Aiello.

However, District 207 officials said that while the restraining order prohibits the state from enforcing Pritzker's mask mandate in schools, it does not prohibit school districts from enforcing local rules established to maintain health and safety.

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District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said there is a pragmatic reason for keeping masks in place.

"What we didn't want to do is make a change today only to lose it on appeal and have to reinstate a mask mandate a week or two weeks from now," he said.

Students and parents from Maine South urged the board to reconsider.

"I have only had one normal year of high school," said student Anna Kobylarczyk. "Over the pandemic, it has been nearly impossible to form friendships."

Student Daniel Drabak said he protested on Monday and did not wear his mask at school. He urged the board to let kids remove their masks.

Diane Hamel said she originally was not planning to speak at the meeting but said she got teary-eyed listening to the teens talk.

"Let the children breathe," Hamel urged the board. She said students deserve to see the faces of their peers and teachers.

Wallace said the district also has heard from residents who urged them to keep the masks in place for now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Two years of this, it has worn us all out," Wallace said. "We do all hear and feel your frustration; all of us do."

Meanwhile, district officials called the student protest at Maine South disruptive and disrespectful, saying that kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

The administration is in the process of identifying students for disciplinary action based upon the severity of their behavior.

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