Ill. lawmakers ban mask mandates in schools, while students and parents say masking traumas remain

Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 11:07 PM CST
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EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. ( -- Tuesday, Illinois state lawmakers from both parties rebuked and overrode Governor JB Pritzker’s orders to set mandates in public schools. This means moving forward that masking, vaccine and testing mandates will end in public school districts across Illinois.

It happened Tuesday afternoon, while dozens of parents and students in the Edwardsville School District rallied together and advocated for optional masking in schools. They tell us the process of masking and unmasking has been emotionally damaging for some students.

“It’s frustrating, and it’s been frustrating,” Rick Guntrum said.

“We want normal life again,” Julie Whitehead-Schmidt echoed.

Parents called for optional masking in school, but said another issue has become the center of attention in the last few weeks. A video circling around the district, taken by a Lincoln Middle School student, shows a make-shift isolation pod. Something students said they were being put in for not masking up.

“It’s terrible, just not right,” Whitehead-Schmidt said.

Another parent, wanting to remain anonymous, said her daughter was also put in a pod, calling it “unbelievable.” She told News 4 they called the district several times once they heard their student was put in one, and she was eventually allowed to leave. Edwardsville school leaders said the isolation pods were used to separate students to avoid exposure.

However, now that masking can no longer be mandated in Illinois public schools, per the Illinois legislature, some parents and students still have major concerns.

“Especially those who are immunocompromised and teachers that have a lot of children present, it would be irresponsible, I think, to unmask children at this point,” parent Heather Hoffman said.

Hoffman and her son were counter-protesting in Edwardsville Tuesday. They said they don’t mind the masks and think schools should continue following the science and CDC guidelines.

“This is a serious pandemic. We support masks because we don’t want people getting sick,” Leiden Vanbendegom said.

Many Illinois lawmakers also boycotted the state’s mask mandate Tuesday on the house floor, calling the mandates unwanted and unnecessary. As of Monday night, about 1,800 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across Illinois. That’s down from an all-time high of nearly 7,400 patients in January.