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Judge rules CPS students can’t compete in state cross country meets while teachers, coaches on strike

In her ruling, Judge Eve M. Reilly noted that seniors ‘will not have another opportunity to compete in their beloved high school sport. It is not fair and it is wrong.’ But student safety trumped all other concerns, Reilly wrote.

Flanked by dozens of students, Sydney Partyka, a senior at Taft High School who runs cross country, speaks during a press conference outside the Daley Center.
Flanked by dozens of students, Sydney Partyka, a senior at Taft High School who runs cross country, speaks during a news conference outside the Daley Center.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Citing student safety and the “possibility of conflict if teachers and coaches were crossing the picket line,” a Cook County judge ruled Jones College Prep’s cross country teams can’t compete in a state regional meet Saturday during the ongoing Chicago Teachers Union strike.

The case has broad implications for other Chicago Public Schools students who also want to compete in state meets while their teachers and coaches are on strike.

Judge Eve M. Reilly’s decision, issued Friday, denied a temporary restraining order that had been sought by parents of cross country athletes at Jones.

In her four-page ruling, Reilly noted seniors “will not have another opportunity to compete in their beloved high school sport. It is not fair and it is wrong.”

But, Reilly wrote, “this court must balance student safety above all other concerns,” and she noted that if the restraining order were granted, “schools would be forced to open ... to accommodate sports teams without adequate staff on hand to do so.”

About 100 students had attended the hearing earlier Friday at the Daley Center on a complaint filed Thursday by 14 parents of the cross country students against the Illinois High School Association and the Chicago Board of Education. The complaint sought a temporary restraining order to allow the athletes to compete in the state playoff events during the strike, including Saturday morning’s cross country regionals.

“We were prepared for what was the most likely outcome from the beginning,” Jones cross country coach Andrew Adelmann said after the ruling. “We understood the odds weren’t in our favor. This is a difficult time for our city as a whole in general. No matter what your views are.”

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson issued a statement saying that “as the parent of a current high school student myself, I have great empathy for the student-athletes impacted by this strike. Yet, I fully understand why this rule exists and must be enforced. I genuinely hope for a quick resolution to the strike so that these young people can return to competition as soon as possible.”

Solorio Academy senior Kaylani Esteban and her father showed up at the Daley Center at 5 p.m., and were the only spectators in the courtroom when the clerk handed a copy of Reilly’s order to a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. Esteban had spent an hour texting anxious teammates, who had been training without their coach to prepare for regionals even as the strike dragged on and hopes dimmed. Esteban was “deeply upset” by the judge’s ruling.

“I really did have hope,” said Esteban, who had run in the state meet her junior and sophomore years. “At least for the juniors and other teammates, they have another chance next year, but for the seniors, it’s over.”

IHSA rules say students can participate in the state series if the events have already begun before their teachers go on strike.

Attorney Kevin Sterling, representing the athletes, had noted in court that cross country teams had participated in a qualifying event held Oct. 16 — a day before the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike. That event should be considered part of the state series, he argued.

“If one students loses that opportunity ... the cost is too high,” Sterling said.

David Bressler, an attorney for the IHSA, said the city championship event that students participated in was not part of the state series, which he said was clearly defined in the organization’s bylaws.

IHSA_order.pdf