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Pritzker Sues to Mandate Face Masks for Students Returning to School

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker filed a lawsuit this week to obtain court approval for an executive order requiring students to wear face coverings when schools reopen this fall.

“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a statement.

No one has sued over the policy, but Prtizker says he expects to face pushback.

Already, two private schools and one public school district informed the state Board of Education that Pritzker does not have the authority to require masks, because governors cannot impose rules that “merely have a tendency to prevent” the community spread of the coronavirus, according to Thomas DeVore, an attorney representing Hutsonville Community School District as well as Parkview Christian Academy and Families of Faith Christian Academy.

Masks requirements are “recommendations,” not rules, DeVore said in the letter to the state Board of Education, because Pritzker’s policy lacks any sort of enforcement mechanism.

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Instead of addressing the schools’ concerns, Pritzker decided to preemptively file a lawsuit in order to “signal that this issue is not up for debate.”

“Students need to prepare, parents need to know what’s coming, administrators need guidelines. Confusion on these things leads to risk,” Ann Spillane, Pritzker’s chief legal counsel, said. “The governor doesn’t have an option.”

Pritzker has already lost one court battle over his “arbitrary” executive orders made throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, a state Republican legislator sued Pritzker, alleging that the governor had exceeded his legal authority in issuing a stay-at-home order.

Clay County Judge Michael McHaney ruled in favor of state Rep. Darren Bailey, and granted Bailey’s request that the lawsuit “be a representative action and apply to all citizens of the state of Illinois.”

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Neither the state constitution nor the emergency management act allows Pritzker “to restrict a citizen’s movement or activities and/or forcibly close business premises,” McHaney ruled, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

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