* Emphasis added by me…
I know many of you are in a difficult position. The pandemic has required us to navigate changing circumstances and guidance. I deeply appreciate your leadership and the courage and integrity you have shown in tremendously challenging times. Many of you have requested clarity on the action the Illinois State Board of Education will take to enforce the universal indoor masking requirement, and this communication seeks to provide that clarity.
As you know, Executive Order 2021-18, which went into effect last Wednesday, requires that all students, staff, and visitors wear masks indoors in all P-12 schools in Illinois. Governor Pritzker took this action after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended it.
The purpose of the universal indoor masking requirement is to ensure all students can safely attend school in-person this fall. We know that consistent and correct mask use is the simplest, most effective way to keep students safely in school, where they can learn and grow to their fullest potential. Masks work best when everyone wears one. Research conducted by the CDC found that schools are safe when they have prevention strategies in place, as documented in the updated guidance from ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The Delta variant is causing a surge in cases and hospitalizations, and masking is a critical strategy to protect students’ access to in-person learning and to keep students, staff, and the community around them safe. We don’t throw our umbrella away in a rainstorm because we’re not getting wet. We have to keep our umbrella up until the storm passes.
The executive order has the force of law. I understand the pressure some school and district leaders may be facing from community members, and I will provide you with every support to understand, communicate, and comply with the order.
However, noncompliance is not an option. I will not compromise the health and safety of students or staff, nor will I risk even one child’s life.
Local boards of education, schools, and school districts do not have the authority to deny the Governor’s Executive Order requiring universal indoor masking in schools. Doing so not only puts students’ health and safety at risk but also opens the district to extraordinary legal liability – potentially without any insurance to cover damages. I strongly recommend that each district consult with its legal counsel and insurer to fully understand the repercussions.
Further, ISBE has and will use its regulatory authority, pursuant to 23 Ill Admin. Code 1.20, to ensure school districts protect students and staff; if school districts fail to do so, this risks State recognition.
A district would have multiple opportunities to remedy the deficiencies that present a health hazard or a danger to students or staff before becoming unrecognized. A district would first have its recognition status changed to “On Probation” and would be asked to submit a corrective action plan. Failure to address the deficiencies would lead to nonrecognition, meaning total loss of access to state funding and loss of the school’s ability to engage in any Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association athletic competitions.
These are not steps anyone at ISBE wishes to take nor should these steps be necessary. School districts have the moral and legal obligation to follow public health requirements and guidance to keep their students and staff safe.
Wearing a mask is simple, safe, and easy. I know it can be uncomfortable sometimes, but so are football helmets and seatbelts. Sometimes we have to bear a little discomfort for the sake of safety and because it’s the law.
We have so many important issues to face as we start the school year, and we want to start the year off with positivity for all our students. I ask that you respect that there is a mask requirement, communicate this to your school communities, and celebrate the return to in-person learning.
Thank you for your partnership and support.
Dr. Carmen I. Ayala
State Superintendent of Education
Illinois State Board of Education
It’s also quite a bit easier to slap private schools with nonrecognition status, which would also mean losing access to Invest in Kids Act money.
* I mentioned that because the guy who runs the private school that Speaker Welch sends his son and daughter to is making a big deal out of violating the governor’s order…
The video is here.
From the Speaker’s spokesperson…
The Speaker supports Governor Pritzker’s decision to listen to the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and our most trusted health professionals. He believes it should apply to all schools because this is about keeping our children safe, especially those who are too young for the vaccine.
*** UPDATE *** And just like that. Boom. Out goes the recognition…
August 11, 2021
Sent Via Electronic Mail
Mr. Matt Davidson
Superintendent, Timothy Christian Schools firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Nonpublic Recognition Status of:
Timothy Christian High School (19-022-042Y-03)
1061 S Prospect Ave, Elmhurst, IL 60126-5263
Timothy Christian Elem Middle Sch (19-022-065X-03)
188 W Butterfield Rd, Elmhurst, IL 60126-5073
Dear Mr. Davidson:
Pursuant to ISBE’s authority under 23 Illinois Administrative Code 425.60, ISBE is removing your school’s status as a recognized nonpublic school, effective immediately. As a result of being non-recognized, your school is now subject to at least the following consequences:
1. Seniors who graduate from a non-recognized school will receive a diploma that is not recognized by ISBE. This action is irreversible should the school later regain its recognition status, and these students will forever have a degree from a non-recognized school.
2. Your school, families, and students will be unable to participate in the Invest in Kids Act tax scholarship program subject to the regulations set by the Illinois Department of Revenue.
3. Your school will become ineligible to participate in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) sanctioned sports subject to the regulations set by IHSA/IESA.
Per our discussion on August 11, 2021, you declined to affirm that your schools will comply with the universal masking requirements set forth in Executive Order 2021-18. In a publicly disseminated video you also stated that your school will not comply with the requirements in the Order. These
requirements apply to all public and nonpublic schools serving students in any of the grades preK through 12, without exception.
We do not take this action lightly. The purpose of the universal indoor masking requirement is to ensure that all students can safely attend school in-person this fall. We know that consistent and correct mask use is the simplest, most effective way to keep students safely in school, where they can learn and grow to their fullest potential. And masks work best when everyone wears one. Therefore, ISBE must take every action possible under its authority to ensure compliance in all schools with the Executive Order.
Should you have questions about this letter, please contact Derreck Langwith at email@example.com.
Dr. Carmen I. Ayala
State Superintendent of Education
Messed around and found out.