Source: Cassandra Fairbanks

An Illinois judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking schools in the state from enforcing mandatory mask mandates.

Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit from a group of both teachers and parents.

“This court acknowledges the tragic toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken, not only on this state but throughout the nation and globe,” Grischow wrote in the ruling. “Nonetheless, it is the duty of the Courts to preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the boundaries of the authority granted under the Constitution.”

The judge determined that several COVID-related emergency orders from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, including one mandating vaccines for school employees, are “null and void,” according to a report from ABC News. The ruling said that districts cannot force staff to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing “without first providing them due process of law.”

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Gov. Pritzker said that the ruling may force schools to go to virtual learning.

“The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities — and this may force schools to go remote,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This shows yet again that the mask mandate and school exclusion protocols are essential tools to keep schools open and everyone safe.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul said that the state will be appealing the decision.

“This decision sends the message that all students do not have the same right to safely access schools and classrooms in Illinois, particularly if they have disabilities or other health concerns,” Raoul said in a statement.

He added that the ruling “prioritizes a relatively small group of plaintiffs who refuse to follow widely-accepted science over the rights of other students, faculty and staff to enter schools without the fear of contracting a virus that has claimed the lives of more than 31,000 Illinois residents — or taking that virus home to their loved ones.”