Illinois teachers sue Pritzker over COVID-19 school mandates

Illinois teachers sue Pritzker over COVID-19 school mandates

A class-action lawsuit filed by 88 Illinois teachers seeks to block Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mandates on shots, tests and vaccinations for school personnel.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Dec. 13 by 88 teachers and school staff from across Illinois in opposition to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 school mandates on vaccination, testing and masks.

The lawsuit naming 22 different school districts, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois State Board of Education and the governor as defendants seeks an emergency injunction blocking Pritzker’s health requirements for school personnel.

The challenge in Sangamon County Circuit Court argues the vaccination and testing program violates the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

“The educators object to the vaccination and testing of the coronavirus as both health care services violate their moral conscience,” the lawsuit states. “Should the educators object to these proposed health care services, the law prohibits the defendants from discriminating against them.”

Among the plaintiffs is teacher Kadence Koen who made national headlines in November for refusing to show proof of vaccination and test results for weeks in her home district.

After Springfield District 186 gave Koen an ultimatum – to either comply with the mandates or lose her job – she revealed she had gotten the vaccine months before it was mandated.

“My stand all the way along has been anti-mandate,” Koen told WMAY last month. “I am against the idea of one man being able to tell an entire population what they have to do as far as their medical decisions.”

District 186 teacher Kimberly Smoot is also a plaintiff. Smoot said she adheres to regular weekly testing but worries about conceding personal liberties in the name of public safety.

“First we must test, then you take away the option to test and make us get the vaccine,” Smoot said.

“Next, that’s not enough and we must get a booster according to your schedule. When we give up our rights, even if it’s little by little, we will never get them back,” Smoot said.

The governor signed an amendment to Illinois’ decades-old Health Care Right of Conscience Act Nov. 8 allowing employers to discipline employees for refusing to comply with COVID-19 rules. The amendment was intended to narrow the law and deny it as a legal argument to groups such as the 88 teachers, but the changes do not take effect until June 1, 2022.

The bill and its various proposed amendments spurred opposition by more than 86,000 Illinoisans.

Pritzker justified the change as clarifying “the legislative intent of the Health Care Right of Conscience Act so that it cannot be abused or misinterpreted to jeopardize workplace safety.”

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!