Illinois Appellate Court Rejects Gov. Pritzker’s Appeal to Keep School Children Masked 

Issa Mask Mandate

An Illinois Appellate Court on Thursday rejected Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s appeal to keep the state’s mask mandate in place for school children.

On February 4, Sangamon County circuit judge Raylene Grischow issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Pritzker’s mask mandates, which rendered Pritzker’s order “null and void.” Grischow’s decision prompted Pritzker’s appeal.

The appellate court’s decision comes after the Illinois legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules refused to extend Pritzker’s emergency rules last Tuesday. In bipartisan fashion, three Democrats joined the Republican legislators’ decision to end the statewide emergency rules, which first took effect in September 2021.

Due to the legislature’s decision, the three-member panel of the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court determined Pritzker’s lawsuit was “moot,” meaning there was no longer a legal controversy.

“Because the emergency rules voided by the TRO are no longer in effect, a controversy regarding the application of those rules no longer exists. Thus, the matter is moot,” the court wrote.

Instead, public health mandates will now be made on a district-by-district basis. “We note the language of the TRO in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the IDPH in creating provisions addressing COVID-19,” the court continued.

Chicago’s public school system announced their mask mandates would remain in effect. Chicago Public Schools said in a statement:

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) stands by our proven COVID-19 safety mitigation measures and is pleased the Appellate Court has confirmed that the Temporary Restraining Order does not prohibit school districts from independently requiring masks, vaccinations for staff, and requiring individuals who have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 to learn/work from home. Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandated universal masking.

These safety measures are what have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year. We will continue to follow these protocols until such time as our public health partners advise us that restrictions can be safely lifted.

Gov. Pritzker was “disappointed” with the appellate court’s decision and signaled that he would take his lawsuit to the Illinois Supreme Court. Pritzker’s office issued the following statement:

The Governor is disappointed in the appellate court’s decision and concerned for the health of those in schools – particularly vulnerable children and adults – and the ability to continue in-person learning. The administration is working with the Attorney General to request an expedited review of this decision from the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Governor urges everyone to continue following the doctors’ advice to wear masks so students can remain safely learning in classrooms, and is encouraged that the court made it clear that school districts can continue to keep their own mitigations in place.

Illinois’s statewide indoor mask mandate is set to expire on February 28 after Pritzker announced the mandate’s termination earlier in the month.

The case is Austin v. The Board of Education of Community Unit School District 300, Nos. 21CH500002, 21CH500003, 21CH500005, 21CH500007 in the Fourth District Appellate Court of Illinois.


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