SPRINGFIELD – The following is attributable to Illinois Education Association (IEA) President Kathi Griffin regarding the 4th District Appellate Court ruling on the State of Illinois’ appeal of Judge Grischow’s Feb. 4, 2022, Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in the Sangamon County COVID school litigation:

“We appreciate the clarity brought forth in the Fourth District Appellate Court’s decision last night dismissing defendants’ appeal of the temporary restraining order (TRO) finding that the expiration and non-renewal of Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education emergency orders regulating COVID mitigations in schools made their arguments moot. There has been much confusion over what Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow’s original ruling even meant. It appeared to apply only to those districts named in the original court cases, which would be about 150. But according to school administrators, there are at least 500 mask-recommended districts now in Illinois.

“Students crave consistency. But, Judge Grischow’s Feb. 4 decision to enter a TRO in the case sent schools into chaos.

“A bright spot in the decision clarifies for which parties the TRO applies.  The appellate court affirmatively stated that ‘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.’

“These past few weeks have been tumultuous in schools around the state. They have been described by some as the worst time in our teachers’ and education employees’ careers. They’re getting angry emails, having to comfort scared students and are working to help calm other students who are dealing with the trauma that this pandemic has caused. Schools are supposed to be students’ safe haven. That’s not what we’ve been seeing at many of our schools recently. We know school board meetings have been canceled and schools have shut down because of threats and protests. This has to stop.

“Mitigation efforts are not political. They are put in place to keep students and school staff from getting sick, or from bringing home COVID-19 to loved ones who may be susceptible.

“As the weather gets warmer and as hospitalizations continue to decline, we are hopeful that school districts will adhere to their duty to bargain in good faith with local associations over health and safety issues, including mitigation efforts, and remind all that any existing collective bargaining agreements or memoranda of understanding around these issues remain intact.

“We need people to remember we are all in this together – parents, community members, educators and our students. There is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. We need to come together to find thoughtful solutions to bring some calm back to our schools, which will provide a better environment for our teachers and staff to provide students the important learning and emotional support that they need.”

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At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.