It's Still Happening
Some Illinois schools won't stop with their unlawful, unscientific covid policies
My friend @KellyRocleu shared an example today of the kind of covid policies some Illinois school districts are still pretending are lawful and necessary.
This “Health Update” is from Morton Grove 70, but it’s far from unique.
Here’s what makes this District’s policies - and policies like these - perplexing and wrong…
The policies conflate terms.
Under state law, isolation is for a case of disease, i.e., the sick person who is being asked or ordered to stay away from other people. Quarantine is for contacts of the person who’s been diagnosed with a disease. District 70 is confused by which is which.
The policies have almost no legal basis.
District 70 starts by invoking a Cook County Department of Public Health webinar. Parents should request a link to the webinar, because it’s very likely the DPH is misleading schools about schools’ legal authority. Regardless, a board of education can’t simply take advice in a webinar and send it out as policy. There’s a policy-adoption process a BOE must follow - which includes period for public comment and the requirement to connect policy to statute, case law, and/or public acts. Imagine for a second that the Cook County DPH recommended all students take vitamin D every day. Could a district simply mandate children take a vitamin D pill every morning at school? Of course not. This is no different. Granted, the district leads with “We are communicating the following information…” which is code for “We’re trying to make you think these things are required, but technically aren’t saying they’re required in case someone tries to sue us.”
Illinois law and the state’s communicable disease code give only the local health department authority — “supreme authority,” in fact — for issuing orders of quarantine and isolation. That includes modified quarantine, which multiple state courts have said covers a directive to wear a mask. Even when an order is issued to an individual, that person has due process rights and can object.
District 70 does gesture toward legality in its last point, stating they will contact the local health department in the event of refusal to stay home when testing positive. What about refusal to mask or stay home due to exposure? They don’t say.
The policies don’t name “covid.”
It seems the District 70 lawyer knows these policies have no legal basis, because this email treats it as “the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named”. If the student tests positive for…? Within 3 feet of a positive case of…? Students vaccinated against…? For all we know, they’re talking about strep throat — or parainfluenza, which has been more prevalent lately. Hard to not see omitting the virus name out of the message as intentional. The suspicious side of my mind can’t help but wonder if this is conditioning for trying to treat all illness this way.
The policies assign no ownership for enforcement of days out, mask-wearing, or identifying close contacts*.
The District uses a Ministry-of-Truth-like, grammatically-passive voice: If they don’t want to wear a mask, they will be out for 10 days…Close contacts will be defined as…If a student is identified as… Who is the responsible party in these situations? This language is not a mistake.
The policies don’t care if a student is actually-sick.
Unfortunately, parents have become ingrained with the idea that testing positive for the presence of viral fragments makes their child “sick.” Before March 2020, no one said, “Bobby has influenza A, but no symptoms, so we’re keeping him home.” Testing for a pathogen in the absence of symptoms was not a thing. Even testing for flu - versus self-diagnosing or a getting a clinical diagnosis without a test - was not a thing. Sadly, the myth of asymptomatic super-spreading took over people’s brains, and it may be awhile before the damage is repaired.
The policies assume testing is critical.
Whence the idea that if a child has one or more symptoms on the laundry-list of potential covid signs, he/she has a moral-ethical obligation — or medical need — to be tested? The only thing I recall being tested for as a kid is strep throat. Why? Because treating strep requires a prescription. In other words, testing is necessary when an illness must be diagnosed in order to receive proper treatment. A child should not have to “prove” the cause of symptoms that we’re all used to experiencing as part of being human. Nor should child need to “prove” via any test, let alone multiple tests in week, that he/she is “pure” enough to stay in school.
The policies privilege vaccinated students.
Why is District 70 implying that vaccinated students either don’t or are less likely to transmit covid - or that they don’t get infected with or get sick from the virus? Chicago’s data alone shows comparable case numbers for vaccinated and unvaccinated adolescents (who are likely testing at different rates). Close to 90% of children have already been infected, and even with generous definitions applied, the virus has not increased the respiratory disease morality burden among ages 0-17. So what does District 70 think they are preventing?
Let’s be honest: The real purpose of policies that punish “the unvaccinated” is to coerce vaccination - not to curb disease spread.
I truly don’t understand why any school or district is still insisting that covid is a bigger deal than it is. All but the very fewest of children are protected from severe outcomes from covid by virtue of being kids. Have superintendents and teachers forgotten how comparable (if not more severe) illnesses, like flu, were addressed?
I’m not sure.
I am sure that, unless parents in Morton Grove District 70 and others like it who are engaging in similar health-policy shenanigans wake up & return to common-sense protocols for handling routine illnesses, thousands of healthy children will continue to miss thousands of days of real, in-person, taxpayer- or tuition-funded school.
*Outside of large outbreaks resulting in significant illness among scores of students, contact-tracing seasonal respiratory viruses is not something Illinois health departments ever bothered with before March 2020. I see no provision in the Illinois or communicable disease codes that permits schools to engage in contact tracing. On the contrary, there are numerous potential FERPA and other statutory violations that could be occurring when schools undertake that effort.
Read this excellent article from The Kerr Report on how the Vernon Hills Park District’s illegal covid policies have barred healthy preschoolers from attending their last days of the year: