Face off? Pritzker slams judge for masks-in-schools ruling — but GOP rivals accuse governor of hiding from truth

“The judge has created a tremendous amount of confusion, even in the way she wrote her decision,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. But Republican challenger Gary Rabine argued, “This chaos is the sole responsibility of failed Governor, J.B. Pritzker.”

SHARE Face off? Pritzker slams judge for masks-in-schools ruling — but GOP rivals accuse governor of hiding from truth
Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives an update on COVID-19 at the Thompson Center in October.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives an update on COVID-19 at the Thompson Center in October.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday accused a downstate judge of “poor legal reasoning” for temporarily barring dozens of school districts from requiring students to wear masks to fight COVID-19 — a decision the governor argued “cultivates chaos for parents, families, teachers and school administrators across the state.”

“Judge Raylene Grischow’s ruling is out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis in Illinois and across the nation,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference.

“Most importantly, it constrains the ability of the named school districts to maintain safe in-person learning requirements — as if kids need a minute more of remote learning — when there are common sense tools we have to reduce and prevent it.”

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow issued her temporary restraining order on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of parents and teachers representing over 100 schools.

In a written statement immediately following the judge’s ruling, Pritzker said he had asked Attorney General Kwame Raoul to appeal the decision “with all possible speed.”

School districts reacted just as quickly, although not in unison.

Chicago Public Schools officials argued over the weekend that Grischow’s order doesn’t prohibit them from maintaining their masking rules and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.But some schools in the suburbs quickly announced plans to go maskless or “mask optional.”

“The judge has created a tremendous amount of confusion, even in the way she wrote her decision,” Pritzker said on Monday. “We want to make sure that we’re getting an appeal heard as soon as possible so that we can, you know, rid ourselves of the fog of the, frankly, not good decision by the Sangamon County Court.”

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul last year.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul last year.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

But Pritzker’s Republican challengers contend all the “fog” and “chaos” can be traced to the Democratic governor.

“This chaos is the sole responsibility of failed Governor, J.B. Pritzker,” Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine said in a statement. “Illinois kids are paying for J.B.’s failed leadership.”

Businessman Gary Rabine speaks to supporters as he announces his run for governor in Schaumburg last March.

Businessman Gary Rabine speaks to supporters as he announces his run for governor in Schaumburg last March.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and running mate state Rep. Avery Bourne, tweeted, “It’s long past time for Governor Pritzker to stop ruling this state under the guise of emergency executive authority. We need to end these mandates and restore the rights of parents and local communities.”

Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan tweeted, “Despite countless other governors — including many democrats — following logic and science, Pritzker refuses to give up control of your kids or your community schools.”

State Sen. Darren Bailey of downstate Xenia tweeted, “As your next Governor, I will repeal all of Pritzker’s mandates. You should make these decisions, not government.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left; state Sen. Darren Bailey, center; Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, right.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left; state Sen. Darren Bailey, center; Republican venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, right.

Patrick Kunzer/Daily Herald file; Facebook; Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times file

The attorney general filed an emergency motion with the Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court on Monday, asking the court to pause enforcement of the temporary restraining order until the appeal can be resolved due to “the severe and immediate public health risks and disruption to in-person learning.”

Raoul’s office also filed petitions for each of the related cases, requesting for the temporary restraining order to be reversed and dissolved by the appellate court judges.

Pritzker said he asked Raoul to “seek to have the ruling overturned with all possible speed.”

And the governor rejected the GOP argument that he was the source of the chaos.

“This virus created chaos,” Pritzker told reporters. “Let’s face it, I mean, all of our lives have been upended by a virus that no one expected. And then the question is, what is the human reaction?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during his State of the State address at the Old State Capitol Building last week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during his State of the State address at the Old State Capitol Building last week.

Thomas J. Turney/State Journal-Register via AP file

“What is our community, our state’s reaction to that? And we have reacted in a way that has saved lives, and we have the best rate of vaccinations in the Midwest, we have a tremendous record of keeping people healthy and alive during this terrible time that we’ve been in. And it’s because we have these tools.”

Pritzker argued his administration is “following the science.”

“As for this specific case, poor legal reasoning should not take one of our most effective tools off the table.”

Taylor Avery is a Sun-Times staff reporter based in Springfield. David Struett is a CST Wire reporter based in Chicago

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