Students protest mask policies

Springfield court ruling results in controversy over mask mandates

Macy Hepokoski, InDepth Editor

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, dozens of students and parents protested the mandatory mask policy at LT, after a court ruling by Judge Raylene Grischow in Springfield on Feb. 4. 

The court order stated that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker was temporarily prohibited from enforcing mask mandates in schools for students and educators; however, LT was not one of the districts who are part of the lawsuit against Pritzker, and therefore this ruling did not affect LT’s current mandatory mask policies, according to an email sent by Superintendent Brian Waterman

Many students declared that it was illegal and unfair for LT to mandate masks, including Turning Point USA (TPUSA) LT chapter president and protest organizer Leslie Mendoza ‘22.

“I absolutely think that students are sick of [wearing masks] and they are not going to comply anymore because they know that they are right,” Mendoza said. 

NC students who did not comply with the mask policies on Feb. 9 were originally sent to the cafeteria and then later relocated to the Reber Center. SC students were moved from the Performing Arts Center (PAC) to the cafeteria and were dismissed prior to the rest of the students. Separated students were given the option to do their class work asynchronously, agree to mask policies and return to class, or leave school with parent permission, Waterman said. 

Administrators are encouraging students and the community to focus on taking an appropriate and compassionate approach toward conflicts and interactions with each other, Waterman said.  

“LT should hold [the protesters] accountable for any disruptive or inappropriate behavior students may have demonstrated, as they would under any other circumstances,” Molly Voigt ‘22 said. 

LT has not currently announced any long term effects these protests will have on the mask mandates, nor if there will be repercussions for the protestors. 

“Nothing bad happened,” Mendoza said. “Despite some negative comments that we have gotten, [the protests were] all peaceful.” 

However, for many students still following mask protocols, this protest was a disruption to classes and to the school day, Voigt said.

“They are choosing to disrupt their own education, as well as all their peers,” Voigt said. “I think everyone needs to have mature conversations, instead of putting people in danger and making life harder for the staff at this school.”  

Some protestors believe that these protests are the only way for change and will take legal action if this change does not occur, Mendoza said.  

“It is illegal for them to ask any of us, [or] require any of us to wear a mask,” Mendoza said.  

On Feb. 9, Pritzker announced plans to lift the Illinois indoor mask mandate in all facilities, excluding schools, effective on Feb. 28. Pritzker also stated, in a press conference with the Chicago Tribune, that local jurisdictions can create their own mitigations and requirements. He noted that these should be followed even if they are stricter than state requirements. 

On Feb. 10, a different group of students congregated outside of NC to show their support of LT’s mask mandate. These protestors remained outside, masked up, often circling the building in a show of support for wearing masks. 

Administrators have not released any information about consequences to the week’s protests.

Editor’s note: This report includes information through Feb. 10, LION’s print deadline. Reporter Nicholas Barbara contributed reporting to this article.