Lake Forest teachers warn of liability concerns after school board votes to defy health department’s remote-learning recommendation

LAKE FOREST – The Lake Forest Education Association (LFEA) sent a letter to the Lake Forest School District 115 Board of Education warning about the financial dangers of keeping schools open after the Lake County Health Department recommended moving to remote learning because of a growing COVID-19 positivity rate. At tonight’s school board meeting, the LFEA will continue its call for an immediate switch to remote learning.

“We believe the board’s decision to keep Lake Forest High School open is reckless and puts lives in danger. We’ve voiced these concerns again and again, but our objections have been ignored,” LFEA President Becca Schwartz said. “People’s health and safety don’t seem to matter to the board, so now we’re talking about something we think does matter to them, money. The board members need to be concerned about the very real possibility of being held liable when students and staff contract COVID at school.”

On Thurs., Oct. 22, the BOE voted to keep the building open for in-person learning. On Tues., Oct. 20, the Lake County Health Department advised all schools in the county shift to virtual learning because of growing COVID-19 infection rates.

A letter sent to the school district on behalf of LFEA reads in part:

“Normally school districts and their employees are protected from personal liability by Section 105 ILCS 5/10-20.20 of the Illinois School Code, which protects against such liability for negligent actions which occur in the course of their employment. However, by ignoring the public health concerns presented by both the Illinois and the Lake County Boards of Health, the decision to continue in-person learning is potentially not mere negligence but may rise to the level of willful and wanton conduct and intentional action, removing the board and it’s administration from the statutory protections afforded in the statute.”

“The fact is, there are students and staff at Lake Forest High School who have COVID-19. We know COVID is in the building. They have closed classrooms because of exposure. Our students and staff are at risk every day,” Schwartz said. “It’s really stunning the board continues to ignore data. As of today, the board’s own COVID dashboard has an incidence rate more than three times what they indicate would compel the district to transition to virtual learning. Instead, they are bringing in the senior class for in-person learning.”

The LFEA represents 158 teachers, social workers, psychologists and counselors in District 115, providing an education to the more than 1600 students of Lake Forest High School.

Currently, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are attending in-person classes at Lake Forest High School.  Seniors return to the building today, Nov. 9.

Tonight’s board meeting begins at 7 p.m. Schwartz plans to make a statement at tonight’s meeting. Here’s a link to join.


The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.

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