BLOOMINGTON, IL — A southern Illinois lawyer is suing the Illinois High School Association over guidelines in its recent Return to Play plan that he states will "cause irreparable damage" to his children and other student-athletes in Illinois.
Thomas DeVore, whose practice is based in Litchfield, filed the lawsuit Monday and describes the plan as an "illegal product of collusion" between state government agencies, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson and the IHSA.
Among DeVore's contentions in the lawsuit is that the IHSA doesn't have the authority to enforce a mask mandate while students play sports. DeVore and Katya King, also named as a plaintiff, have two children, who are student-athletes and will be seniors in Hillsboro Community School District No. 3.
In recent months, DeVore has represented a number of Illinois businesses in lawsuits against Gov. J.B. Pritzker regarding stay-at-home restrictions. He has also worked for several state lawmakers in this regard.
In this case, DeVore and the IHSA will hold legal proceedings in a Montgomery County court, according to a copy of the lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the IHSA announced it will defer to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education, and the Governor's Office on all of its Return To Play Guidelines moving forward.
"There is an unprecedented level of planning for this school year due to COVID-19, and we have come to understand that there needs to be a greater consistency between the guidelines for returning to learn and returning to interscholastic athletics," Anderson said in a press release. "Some of the recommendations by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and directives from IDPH have come into direct conflict with each other, especially as it relates to the use of masks by student-athletes. As a result, we feel it is important to let IDPH and ISBE provide a consistent direction for our membership moving forward."
Anderson added that the IHSA will wait on direction from these organizations for further guidance on Return to Play plans for the 2020-21 school year.
Last week, the IHSA announced it was modifying its Phase 4 Return To Play Guidelines due to an increase of COVID-19 cases among high school teams across the state. The decision was made in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Health. The changes came less than a week after the IHSA started allowing athletes to return to summer practice and competition on July 3.
As many #IHSA schools move into Phase 4 today, a reminder that communication with your local health department will be vital in developing the protocols that will be used after a positive test.Be smart & stay safe out there! pic.twitter.com/Tl0hpxXw7x
— IHSA #IHSA (@IHSA_IL) July 6, 2020
The modifications place greater restrictions on coaches and student-athletes in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the IHSA. Important changes include limiting physical contact and an increased usage of masks, the latter of which DeVore is challenging in his lawsuit. The limited physical contact revisions restrict schools from conducting contests against other schools in most sports, including 7-on-7 in football.
On Monday, athletic camps at Glenbrook South High in Glenview were postponed after at least one student who participated in a camp last week tested positive for COVID-19. Camps were also closed Tuesday as Glenbrook School District 225 completes contact tracing and other information collection, according to school officials.
Health officials said Tuesday 36 Lake Zurich High School students have tested positive for COVID-19. Many of the students were turned away during health screenings at athletic camps at the high school on July 6 after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms and more students started showing COVID-19 signs later in the day and were sent home, according to the Lake County Department of Health news release.
Through the health department's investigation and contact tracing efforts, health officials determined students may have been exposed to the virus at multiple social gatherings prior to the athletic camps
Last week in Lake Zurich, three sports camps shut down after multiple student athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We still believe there is a path to conducting high school athletics in the fall, like the majority of states surrounding Illinois plan to do,"Anderson said Tuesday. "To make that happen, it's important that we allow IDPH, ISBE and the Governor's Office to take the lead on ensuring the safest and most consistent protocols."
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