Parents Speak Out Against District 203 Mask Requirement

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NAPERVILLE, IL — Jeers, shouts and occasional cheering erupted when the topic of face mask mandates came up at a board meeting held by Naperville Community School District 203 Monday.

A number of parents spoke in protest of the board’s decision to adhere to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide school mask mandate after Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow issued a temporary restraining order against the mandate Friday. The ruling prompted several schools throughout the state to make masks optional.

At Monday’s meeting District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges started by saying, “I’d like to begin this evening by acknowledging the fact that any decision made by the board of education and the district in regard to our mitigation strategy, specifically the position on masks, would be met with mixed feelings.”

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Bridges went on, “Several members of our community have expressed concern and frustration while several members of our community have expressed gratitude and appreciation for the decision that has been made. We agree with many of you that there is much debate about the meaning of the recent ruling.”

After speaking with its legal counsel, Bridges said, District 203 chose to adhere to its current “Return To Learn Plan,” which requires faces masks to be worn in schools, on buses and during after school activities. Exceptions would only be made for parties who were named in the lawsuit against Pritzker, the Illinois State Board of Education and more than 150 school districts alleging the statewide mask order did not allow for due process.

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Amid the jeers and interruptions that came when Bridges said he wanted to work towards “understanding what an off-ramp to these mitigations will be,” he reassured community members, “I do not and this board does not want to see our students and our staff be masked indefinitely.”

As parents, students and community members took the podium for the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, audience members held signs that read, “Follow the Law,” “Do the Right Thing” and “The Time is Now.”

Lisa O’Rear, who has two children who attend Naperville Central High School, said her daughter faced “discrimination” for deciding not to wear a mask to school Monday. O’Rear’s mask was below her nose as she spoke, saying, “The ruling was not specific to those party plaintiffs only in that it was not a ruling based upon the plaintiffs’ factual circumstances. The ruling was based upon the governor’s actions exceeding his executive authority, which is binding on all citizens of Illinois.”

“Why are you continuing to enforce a mandate that has been ruled null and void?” O’Rear challenged, adding, “You have all shown your true colors over this past week. It is not the children that you care about or health and safety.”

Instead, she said these decisions and other recent coronavirus- and weather-related were being made with “politics and money” behind them.

After O’Rear’s comments, Board President Kristin Fitzgerald announced a brief recess to allow audience members who were not wearing face coverings to put on a mask to comply with District 203’s mask requirement.

Jim Parker later spoke, “This is not about safety. You are 25 feet away from me. Pritzker talks to people without a mask on. It’s not about safety; it’s about doing what you want us to do and that’s it.”

Parker told board members it had been too long “We’ve compromised for two years and you know what that compromise was? We just did it your way.” In response, audience members shouted that the board members “don’t care.”

“It’s been two years of cowering and spreading fear and doing [things] your way,” he said.

Jenny George said her daughter was sent home Monday because she didn’t wear a mask. George said, “Once again, you chose the path of continuing to harm our kids by forcing them to cover our faces with a dirty piece of cloth.”

George mentioned that Diocese of Joliet students and parents “rose up and marched their kids to school this morning without masks and demanded they be given an education.”

Diocese of Joliet changed its mask policy Tuesday, requiring parents to complete a form to indicate whether their child will wear a face mask in classes.

Grischow’s ruling was appealed Monday by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Pritzker also verbally challenged Grischow’s ruling Monday, calling it, “out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis in Illinois and across the nation.”

He added, “In the moment that we’re in right now, masks are a proven tool, not a new feature of life but a tool to get us through this time. By and large, the people of Illinois have kept their masks on to keep everyone safe, and thankfully we’ve seen our COVID metrics go in the right direction.”

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