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IFT and IEA joint statement: Unions File Amici Brief on face coverings in schools

Joint statement from the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers: Unions File Amici Brief in Sangamon County court hearing on face coverings in schools

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) filed a joint amicus brief in support of a motion for preliminary injunction filed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to compel Hutsonville Community Unit School District #1 and two other schools to adhere to public health guidance issued by IDPH and ISBE, including wearing face coverings while in school, should the schools choose to hold in-person learning to start the school year. The schools contend that they do not need to comply with the state’s public health guidance. In their brief, IEA and IFT argued, based on science and data, “that an individual’s main protection against the coronavirus is the widespread adoption of public health guidelines” and that the “public interest accords with the interests of teachers, administrators, and staff, who should not be forced to pursue their chosen calling at the cost of putting themselves, their students, their loved ones, and the larger community at unreasonable risk of infection.”

Today, the Sangamon County Circuit Court granted the preliminary relief requested by Governor Pritzker, IDPH and ISBE. The ruling was oral and a written order will be issued in the coming days. The following statement is attributable to IEA President Kathi Griffin and IFT President Dan Montgomery:

 “We must stand up to protect the lives of students and school staff. We stand on the side of science and the advice of medical experts, which means we strongly support requiring face coverings, among other public health measures, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We support the State of Illinois in its goal to ensure the health and safety guidelines set by ISBE and IDPH are both implemented and enforced. We will support any legitimate effort to fight off attempts to prevent schools from implementing scientifically proven health and safety measures in our schools that will protect students and educators. Together, the IEA and the IFT represent 238,000 employees in public and private schools, colleges and universities in the state of Illinois, serving more than 2.5 million Illinois students. Our members are eager to return to in-person instruction, but have grave concerns for the safety of our students, our colleagues and our communities. We agree that some types of in-person instruction can be achieved with rigorous health and safety mitigation, but absent a practical safety plan, we believe the 2020-21 school year should begin with remote learning. Right now, there is no vaccine and no cure, so the main protection for both educators – those who are pursuing their life’s calling – and students in an indoor setting is the widespread adoption and enforcement of public health guidelines. Abiding by those guidelines helps keep not only those in school buildings safe, but also their loved ones and the community at large. This isn’t politics. It’s science. Our members have the power to stand up to demand better, to demand protection for their lives and the lives of our students. We will stop at nothing to keep our members and students safe. School and university plans must meet all the standards set by the state of Illinois and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

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