West suburban parents sue IHSA, claim delaying football, changing sports calendar violated the organization’s own rules

Three west suburban parents have filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association in DuPage County Court.

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Protesters hold up signs at the Let Us Play protest in Thompson Center.

Protesters hold up signs at the Let Us Play protest in Thompson Center.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Three west suburban parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association on Tuesday in DuPage County Court.

The suit says the IHSA broke its own rules when it changed the sports calendar in late July. Football and other sports deemed high-risk were moved to a spring season because of COVID-19. The IHSA’s Return to Play plan reimagined the high school sports season, creating four shorter seasons in place of the traditional three seasons.

“The IHSA Board of Directors has issued a series of guidelines that alter the 2020-21 sports seasons mandated by the IHSA By-laws,” the suit reads. “The guidelines include an outright ban on certain sports during the time periods to which the IHSA By-laws limit those sports. These amendments to the IHSA By-laws were not enacted through the legislative process the IHSA Constitution requires.”

The suit does not include Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker or the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker is currently making the decisions on high school and youth sports, with guidance from the IDPH.

Craig Anderson, the IHSA’s executive director, is in favor of starting sports under safety guidelines, which makes the lawsuit target odd. It’s possible the parents think winning the suit against the IHSA will pressure Pritzker to change his decision.

“The IHSA has and continues to believe that we can safely conduct high school sports in Illinois, including sports deemed medium- and high-risk by the Illinois Department of Public Health, throughout the 2020-21 school year,” Anderson said. “We have provided our member schools with a contingency plan that allows for participation by all sports in modified seasons, while continuing to lobby IDPH and state leadership for expanded participation opportunities. We will refrain from further comment until we have the opportunity to review the lawsuit with our legal counsel.”

The parents involved in the lawsuit are Dave Ruggles, Chris Warden and Kelly Ridges. They also are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the IHSA from enforcing its Return To Play guidelines. If granted, that could put an immediate stop to the IHSA’s current schedule and the supervised practices out of season sports are currently conducting.

Coaches and parents launched a Let Us Play movement this month, and Ruggles has been an outspoken member of the movement. The group has held protests all around the state in the last few weeks.

Pritzker released a set of restrictions on high school, youth and adult recreational sports July 29. Football, which is categorized as a higher-risk sport, only will be allowed non-contact practices, according to the state’s current guidelines.

“These are incredibly important moments in the lives of our children,” Pritzker said. “When the multibillion-dollar sports leagues with multimillion-dollar athletes are struggling to protect their players, it is obvious there won’t be enough protection for kids on our school’s playing fields.”

Fall sports played in Illinois include football, boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls golf, boys soccer, girls swimming, girls tennis and girls volleyball. Under Pritzker’s guidelines only cross-country, golf, tennis and swimming are taking place.

Under the new schedule, fall runs from Aug. 10 to Oct. 24. Winter is Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, spring will be Feb. 15 to May 1 and the new summer season will run May 3 to June 26.

Fall sports include boys and girls golf, girls tennis, boys and girls cross-country and girls swimming and diving.

Winter sports are basketball, wrestling, boys swimming, cheerleading, dance, bowling and girls gymnastics.

Football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, badminton, gymnastics and water polo are in the spring.

Baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, lacrosse and boys tennis will run in the summer.

IHSA lawsuit PDF

Motion for TRO.pdf

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