Update: Lawsuit against Illinois High School Association over mask rule; IHSA Announces It Will Defer to State Guidelines | Politics


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ANALISA TROFIMUK

SPRINGFIELD – A Montgomery County lawyer is suing the Illinois High School Association over whether the entities have the power to enforce mask warrants for student athletes.

Craig Anderson, executive director of IHSA, and Hillsboro Community School District No. 3 are also included in the lawsuit.

Thomas DeVore, who practices in the St. Louis area, sued on behalf of his two children, athletes who will be seniors in Hillsboro schools. He claims they will be irreparably hurt by the rules for participation that IHSA introduced this month.

DeVore said Tuesday that the IHSA cannot legally enforce the mask requirement.

“When a government agency or someone you believe is in a position of power over you tells you to do something, you have to ask the question, ‘Do you have the power to do it?’” DeVore said.

Anderson declined to comment on the lawsuit, but provided the following statement: “We are aware of the lawsuit and do not intend to comment on the pending litigation at this time. All of our efforts remain focused on working with the best medical professionals in the state to try to provide the safest possible environment for our students to return to IHSA sports and activities in 2020-21. “

Later Tuesday, the IHSA announced that it would defer to the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the office of the governor on all of his “Back to Play” directives.

“There is an unprecedented level of planning for this school year due to COVID-19, and we understand that there needs to be more consistency between the guidelines for return to learning and return to interschool athletics, ”Anderson said in a statement. “Some of the recommendations of the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and the IDPH guidelines have come into direct conflict, particularly with regard to the use of masks by student-athletes. Accordingly, we believe it is important to let the IDPH and the ISBE provide consistent direction to our members moving forward. We will await instructions from these organizations for further information on return-to-play plans for the 2020-21 school year. “

The IHSA announced on July 3 that athletes could resume summer training and competitions if schools follow a detailed social distancing and disinfection plan. But less than a week later, he announced drastic changes that Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration had demanded, including an increased focus on masks and ending scrums in basketball, football, lacrosse, football, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.

The lawsuit claims the change came after a COVID-19 outbreak at Lake Zurich High School. According to a July 7 email included in the dossier, the school found positive tests among 10 students who attended sports camps on Lake Zurich, as well as a relative who was hospitalized.

Jesse Ruiz, Pritzker’s vice governor for education, sent a note to Anderson the next day, saying the Illinois Department of Public Health would now require all sports participants to wear masks – it was then clarified that the measure did not apply to outsiders as a result of distancing – and would prohibit any physical contact between athletes.

“I know it’s difficult to change the recently released guidelines, but I know you appreciate the changes necessitated by the ever-changing public health conditions,” Ruiz wrote in an email included in the dossier.

The lawsuit claims the rules are “the illegal product of collusion between state agencies, Anderson and the IHSA,” and that the IHSA overstepped its authority by following state guidelines.

“We have the IDPH and the governor’s office dictating to a private entity that does not receive funding from the state,” DeVore said. “They are not controlled by public bodies, public bodies have no authority.”

DeVore, who has sued Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration on behalf of business owners resenting stay-at-home rules, is asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent the IHSA from apply the new restrictions.

“My only concern has always been that these kinds of rules, if they are to be imposed on us, must be enforced by the legislature,” DeVore said.

Despite the changes, Anderson said he was still optimistic that there could be some sport this fall.

“We still believe there is a way to get active in high school athletic activities in the fall, like the majority of states around Illinois are planning to do,” Anderson said. “For this to happen, it is important that we allow the IDPH, ISBE and the Governor’s Office to take the lead in ensuring the most secure and consistent protocols. “

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story.


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Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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