Teachers file COVID lawsuit

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Waterloo has just been named in another lawsuit regarding COVID-related school mandates, but this time school staff are the plaintiffs. 

Thomas DeVore, an attorney who is bringing several COVID-precaution lawsuits across the state, filed a complaint for declaratory judgement and injunctive relief in Sangamon County on behalf of educators from various Illinois school districts. 

The plaintiffs from Waterloo are Robyn Gaubatz, an elementary school teacher, and Jarvia Bryant, a junior high teacher. 

The Waterloo School Board and those of 20 other districts, Illinois Department of Public Health and its director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala and Gov. JB Pritzker are all named as defendants. 

The complaint specifically seeks that the court issue an order stating a mask is a form of modified quarantine used to limit the spread of infectious disease and that, without the consent of the educators, the defendants must have an order from the local health department before they can “compel” educators to wear a mask. 

It goes on to state IDPH emergency rules are not lawful authority for districts to base their mask, exclusion, vaccination and testing policies on; and ISBE emergency rules are not so for districts’ vaccination and testing policies. 

Requiring school personnel to be vaccinated and/or submit weekly testing violates the Health Care Right of Conscious Act, this complaint states. Therefore, it asks the court to enter an order stating as such. 

It also asks the court to issue an order declaring several executive orders regarding the masking, vaccination and testing of school employees invalid. 

The complaint and subsequent motions ask for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions regarding treatment or modified quarantine as well as vaccinations and testing. 

Waterloo School Superintendent Brian Charron declined to comment on this latest case.

As the Republic-Times previously reported, Waterloo Community School District No. 5, Columbia Community Unit School District No. 4, Valmeyer Community Unit School District No. 3, other districts across the state, the governor, ISBE and IDPH, as well as their respective leaders, are all listed as defendants in a suit brought by parents regarding issues of masking and excluding children from schools.

DeVore previously said the suit hopes to establish that, similar to the suit brought by educators, only local health departments can determine who is a close contact and the local health department must issue an order of quarantine for schools to exclude children. 

That is, unless a parent consents. 

On Nov. 22, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled to consolidate similar cases into the large lawsuit and to transfer the matter to Sangamon County. According to an Illinois Education Association press release, the case will now be heard by Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow, who is the same judge assigned to the educators’ case. 

Originally, the miscellaneous remedy complaint was filed by DeVore in Macoupin County, but with multiple motions on where the case should be heard filed with the Supreme Court, initial hearings in Macoupin County were vacated. 

The attorney general requested consolidation and that the matters be heard in either Sangamon or Cook counties, while DeVore’s motion asked the matters be heard by Judge April Troemper in Macoupin County, as originally filed. 

A status conference is set in the case for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15. 

As the aforementioned press release states, unions for teachers and support staff for 52 Illinois school districts filed a petition to intervene in the lawsuit, stating they believe the governor’s mask mandate helps ensure safety for staff and students. 

If the motion is granted, the IEA locals will then be involved in upcoming court proceedings. 

To view the original filing, as well as those related to the educators’ case, click here

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