On August 4, 2021, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-18 requiring all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks indoors in all P-12 schools in Illinois. The Governor’s action is consistent with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Noncompliance is not an option. Local boards of education, schools, and school districts do not have the authority to deny the Governor’s Executive Order. Failure to enforce the Executive Order opens the district to extraordinary legal liability – potentially without any insurance to cover damages.
The Illinois State Board of Education has regulatory authority (23 ILL Admin. Code 1.20) to ensure school districts protect students and staff; if districts fail to do so, state recognition is at risk. Dr. Ayala explained that districts will be put on probation initially and, if the district does not implement corrective action, will have its recognition changed from “On Probation” to “unrecognized.” This means the district will lose access to state funding and the schools will not be able to engage in any athletic competitions.
The Sherrard Board of Education has decided to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order. Before the mandate was issued, the Board strongly encouraged mask wearing, but it decided not to enforce it. While the board understands that wearing a mask can be uncomfortable at times, the mandate has the force of law.