CHICAGO (CBS) — Fights over wearing masks in schools for COVID-19 continue.
Paper, pens, and masks are all required supplies for thousands of Illinois students returning back to classrooms this week – and Illinois schools can get in big trouble if they don’t abide by the mandate that requires all teachers and students, and everyone else in school buildings, to abide by the state’s mask mandates.READ MORE: Judge Bars Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara From Encouraging Officers To Defy City's Vaccine Mandate
But as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, enforcement is a little more fuzzy when it comes to individual students’ refusal.
“This is possibly among the most complex challenges I’ve seen in my nearly 30 years in public school education,” Said Dr. Michel Libelfeld, superintendent of North Shore School District 112.
Lubelfeld is preparing for the return of 3,700 grade school kids this week in his district, which includes multiple schools in Highland Park and one in Highwood. Exactly how the district will handle a student mask refusal is a work in progress – but Lubelfeld said it will start with a call home.
“Get the child some work to work on in the office, and then possibly have an alternative seeing already repaired – or see where we go with the in-person conferencing with mom, or mom and dad,” he said.
Suspension, he said, would be a last resort – but possible. Last week, a student at Fremd High School in Palatine was suspended for a day for refusing to mask up.
Lawyer Gloria Rodriguez said schools have that right.READ MORE: No Cameras Will Be Allowed In Courtroom For Jussie Smollett's Trial
“They can penalize the child with suspensions; with some other kind of derogatory mark in the curriculum file – but that’s not really the best course of action,” Rodriguez said.
Kozlov: “Just simply enforcing a dress code at times is too cumbersome for teachers and principals. How will your district be able to enforce this? Is it different?”
Lubelfeld: “I think it is, Dana. I think it’s different because it’s public health and safety.”
Student refusal will be case-by-case. But in a letter to all school district superintendents, the state has made one thing clear to school leaders – “noncompliance is not an option.”
Penalties for defying the governor’s executive order include probation, and ultimately, loss of state funding and a ban from sports. Timothy Christian School in Elmhurst was threatened with those consequences last week.
Meanwhile, some parents are suing the state over the mask mandate – including two mothers in McHenry County. Laura Murray, who has kids in public elementary and middle schools, and Christine Polheber, a mother of a student at Zion Luther School, argue thar Gov. JB Pritzker is exceeding his authority and the order violates their fundamental right to privacy.MORE NEWS: Sky Cruise To 86-50 Win Over Mercury, Take 2-1 Lead In WNBA Finals
Most lawyers expect such cases to go nowhere.