Dozens of Chicago-area high school students staged a walk-out this week after being told they had to wear masks to attend class — even though an Illinois judge issued a temporary ruling that blocks the state’s school mask mandate.
The maskless students arrived at Vernon Hills High School and Libertyville High School on Monday to protest District 128’s decision to continue requiring face coverings.
Students at Vernon Hills said they were escorted to the gymnasium when they arrived unmasked and given three options: Mask up, remain in the gym for the rest of the day, or leave.
Video posted on social media showed the students trickling out of the school after refusing to don the face masks.
“Most of us in this group have spent most of our high school lives behind these masks. We believe it is time for this to end,” the students said in a joint statement posted on Twitter.
“We want to be free of these masks. We want to see each other’s faces. We want to bring back a sense of normalcy and enjoy what is left of our high school years.”
The students argued that many of them were vaccinated — or had previously had COVID and “survived.”
“For our fellow students who are still concerned, we encourage them to continue to wear masks to protect themselves,” they said. “But for those of us who choose not to, we desire the freedom of that choice.”
“Many school districts around us have recent changed their position and made masks optional. Ours has not,” the students added. “We respect the District’s position, but we also disagree with it.”
Their walk-out came as Illinois’ attorney general appealed Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow’s ruling last week that invalidated Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s school mask mandate.
The judge ruled that the Democratic governor had overstepped his authority in an emergency order issued in last fall that has required students and staff to mask up.
Her ruling, which affected more than 150 school districts, came after more than 700 parents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s mask mandate.
In response, District 128 — which covers the Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools — said in a statement they would still require students to wear masks in classrooms.
Several other districts, including Chicago Public Schools, also opted to continue enforcing the mask mandate.
It comes as the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon announced plans on Monday to lift statewide mask requirements in schools by the end of February or March.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the move “a huge step back to normalcy for our kids” and said individual school districts will be free to continue requiring masks after the state mandate ends March 7.