Judge Denies Restraining Order In COVID-19 Suit

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A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge denied a temporary restraining order on Friday, July 31, in a suit filed against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Hillsboro School District challenging the authority of both to enforce COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions for students participating in extracurricular activities.

The suit, filed on July 13 by Thomas DeVore of Sorento and his former wife Katya King of Greenville on behalf of two of their children and “parents and guardians of minor children similarly situated in the State of Illinois,” alleged that the IHSA has no authority to implement its “Phase 4 Return to Play Plan” released on July 3, nor its “Amended Plan” issued on July 9 that requires masks, prohibits physical contact among athletes, and restricts indoor activities to a 50-person limit including spectators.

After reviewing written arguments and hearing oral arguments in a Zoom hearing on Thursday, July 23, Judge Kevin Parker wrote in his decision denying the temporary restraining order on Friday that “unlike the right to a public education, which is clearly protected, Illinois courts, including our own appellate district, have repeatedly held that the right to participate in extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics, is not a property or liberty interest.”

While noting that the Clay County decision in Bailey vs. Pritzker “is still in full force and effect and has not been reviewed on appeal,” and that “nothing in this order should be construed as this court finding that the IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) or the office of the Governor, both non-parties to his action, have the constitutional, legislative or administrative authority to impose such mandates upon the IHSA or the HCSD #3 as set for in the ‘Amended Plan,’” Judge Parker wrote that he does not find the actions taken by the IHSA or school district to be “unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.”

“Under the current circumstances and uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, which has no doubt changed life as we used to know it for the entire country, whether the ‘Amended Plan’ is implemented as an attempt by the state to impose mandatory rules or merely recommendations for guidance, this court is not willing at this time to find it unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious for the IHSA and HCSD #3 to consider the expertise of the IDPH to formulate and implement guidelines and procedures regulating reoping interscholastic athletic activities.  Further, this court is reluctant to substitute its judgment for that of local rule by HCSD #3”

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