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6 Chicago teachers who sued CPS over its vaccine mandate win legal victory

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 4/9/2022 Tracy Swartz, Chicago Tribune
Middle school math teacher Aaron Bingea teaches remotely as he works outside Brentano Math& Science Academy on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in protest of Chicago Public Schools' reopening of in-person classes. © Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Middle school math teacher Aaron Bingea teaches remotely as he works outside Brentano Math& Science Academy on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in protest of Chicago Public Schools' reopening of in-person classes.

CHICAGO — An Illinois judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday that prevents Chicago Public Schools from taking employment action against six teachers for refusing to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing.

CPS is “the only school district left in the state that’s still enforcing this. None of the rest of the school districts that are in this case are trying to get vaccination or testing compliance out of teachers,” said downstate attorney Tom DeVore, who represents the six CPS teachers. “They should drop it.”

CPS issued a statement late Friday on Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow’s decision: “The district disagrees with the court’s decision and will continue to fight against this lawsuit and the TRO, as we believe our current health and safety protocols are in the best interest of our students, staff and school communities.”

The district said it intends to appeal the decision and will ask for the restraining order to be stayed.

CPS announced an employee vaccine mandate in August, with allowances for medical or religious exemptions. The district later relaxed those rules, but said partially vaccinated and unvaccinated staff members had to test weekly for COVID-19.

CPS says about 8.5% of its staff — some 4,100 employees — are required to test, according to district data.


Video: After Chicago mask mandate lifts, CPS follows suit; CTU pushing back (ABC 7 Chicago)

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Grischow already issued a temporary restraining order against the district in February as part of a challenge to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s school COVID-19 policies such as universal masking, quarantining for unvaccinated close contacts of an infected person, and testing for unvaccinated staff members.

DeVore, a Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general, said after that temporary restraining order was entered, two of his six clients continued to work at CPS without testing weekly. The other four teachers still tested, DeVore said.

“They continued to test because they were waiting for the process to go through the appeals court, and they were scared during that period of time,” he said.

The appellate court dismissed Pritzker’s appeal of the temporary restraining order as moot because rules from the Illinois Department of Public Health requiring masking and other COVID-19 protocols had been allowed to expire.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case, vacating the temporary restraining order.

DeVore said the two CPS teachers who refused to test were told last month by the district to comply with the rule or risk being placed on a nondisciplinary administrative leave of absence without pay. CPS didn’t end up taking action against these teachers, DeVore said. He said Friday he is prepared to add 13 CPS employees to his lawsuit.

Legal pressure from DeVore’s fight with CPS over its coronavirus mitigation strategies helped spur the district to drop its mask requirement for most students and staff last month.

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©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit at chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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