(The Center Square) – There is no vaccine requirement for teachers, attorneys representing Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in court Wednesday. The mandate is for COVID-19 testing. That argument was made as the Illinois State Board of Education separately heard public comments about a proposed vaccine mandate rule.
Last fall, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order for educators to get vaccinated against COVID-19, or test weekly.
Dozens of school staff are suing the governor, state education officials and 22 school districts to block the mandate. Their attorneys say while there are vaccine laws for things like influenza, there is no COVID-19 vaccine law.
Representing the governor in Sangamon County Court Wednesday, Attorney Thomas Verticchio said the issue is really about the testing requirements, not whether there’s a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or law.
“None of that is relevant,” Verticchio said. “There is no vaccine requirement.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Thomas DeVore said even forcing testing requires due process by law, allowing individuals to challenge such requirements in court.
“If you go into the law, vaccination and testing are both covered under the provisions under the Public Health Act,” DeVore said.
The judge took the school staff’s request for a temporary restraining order against the mandate under advisement with a ruling expected soon. The judge will also consider a motion for class certification, allowing others to join the lawsuit .
A separate case, where more than 700 parents are suing more than 140 schools over mask and exclusion policies, continues Thursday morning in Sangamon County.
Separately, but at the same time, the Illinois State Board of Education during their monthly meeting was hearing public comment about a proposed vaccine or testing mandate being proposed by the board.
Cynthia Lund with the Illinois Federation of Teachers supported the mandate during public comments.
“With the delta variant surging and cases in young children rising dramatically, educators and school staff have a responsibility to get vaccinated if they are able to,” Lund said.
But the vast majority of those providing oral public comments Wednesday to ISBE were opposed. Some said they had already had COVID and were immune. Others said such a requirement should go through the Illinois Legislature.
Teacher Lynne Johnson opposed the proposed rule.
“So we are please asking you to please let us not test weekly, only test if we’re sick and not have any mandates for any vaccinations,” Johnson said.
ISBE said after the close of public comment at the end of the month, staff will make a recommendation that would then be brought before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.