D128 Board of Education Community Meeting Focuses on Mask Mandate


Alex Clark

Justin St Louis, a named plaintiff on the lawsuit, gave his view regarding the mask mandate. St Louis walked in without a face covering but was told to wear one by the BOE.

On the evening of Feb. 14, 2022, the District 128 Board of Education held a regularly scheduled committee meeting to discuss the district’s finances, give a COVID-19 update and listen to public comments and discussion about the controversial mask mandate.

The committee meeting was originally scheduled to take place in the Vernon Hills High School Library; however, due to the expected large crowds, the meeting was moved to the LHS auditorium. The public comment section was also altered to allot 120 minutes, instead of the original 30 minutes.

Due to Judge Raylene Grinchow’s Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that prohibited the requirement of wearing masks for students and teachers, numerous residents and students came to express their feelings about the continuation of the mask mandate in District 128 during the public comment section of the meeting. 

District 128 has continued to be mask-required except for the seven named student plaintiffs in light of Judge Grinchow’s TRO. Of the seven plaintiffs, six students attend VHHS and one attends LHS. As a result, a key topic that dominated the public comment section of the meeting was the mask mandate, and its use throughout the district. Many speakers, including parents, students, and concerned community members took the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on the matter. 

One of the speakers throughout the course of the public comment section was sophomore Emilie Bissing, a student at LHS who had previously participated in the student protests to make masking optional. “I’m here to fight for civil rights on behalf of the students of District 128,” Bissing said during her speech. “A group of 30 to 40 people including myself have joined together every day for the past week.” 

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I’m here to fight for civil rights on behalf of the students of District 128

— Emilie Bissing

Bissing was one of many students choosing to protest in response to the continuation of the District 128 mask mandate. “None of us had COVID symptoms, and we are still healthy,” explained Bissing.

Not all of the student speakers present were from Libertyville, however. Several Vernon Hills students also took the opportunity to speak and share their thoughts. 

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I will put the mask on but Mr. DeVore will be notified of what’s happening here and you will then have to face a judge for your actions here today.

— Justin St Louis

Among them was Justin St Louis, a senior at Vernon Hills High School who was one of the seven plaintiffs from District 128 listed in Judge Grinchow’s TRO. Justin St Louis entered the auditorium without a mask but was told to put one on by the board. He argued with the board on whether or not he had to wear a mask or not because he is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

One adult speaker was parent, community resident, and former board candidate Dale Sherman. Sherman addressed the board early on in the meeting. 

“You got it wrong,” said Sherman, “and the process you took to getting it wrong, you got wrong.” Sherman expressed the idea that it was not too late to change the course that District 128 is on. “You’re human beings, certainly all of us make mistakes. It’s not too late to undo this mistake.” Sherman said at the podium.

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You’re human beings, certainly all of us make mistakes. It’s not too late to undo this mistake.

— Dale Sherman

 Another topic of his addressed to the board was the legal implications of the course that District 128 has taken. “Why is the course wrong?” Sherman asked the board. “You’re not following the law. The email that was put out about the fact that we’re supporting the most narrow path. That means you’re taking the path that exposes you to the most liability, exposure to most lawsuits.”

  Sherman was not the only adult nor the only parent to take the podium, as many concerned adults took the opportunity to speak in favor of making masks optional at District 128. 

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Everybody knows that the kids are zero risk

— Steve St Louis

Steve St Louis, a resident of Vernon Hills and father of four, spoke in favor of a mask optional policy, with his son Justin having spoken earlier in the meeting. “Everybody knows that the kids are zero risk,” Steve St Louis said when it was his turn to speak.

After public comment, the BOE gave an update on the current case numbers and data regarding Covid-19 in LHS and VHHS, led by associate superintendent Briant Kelly.

“You can see that it was low in the beginning [of the school year] and actually October was probably our lowest positivity rate,” he said. “[Covid-19 cases] spiked up a little bit again after Thanksgiving and after the holidays but as you can see the trend is that it’s coming back down. Similar to the other data.”

District 128 Superintendent Denise Herrmann also took the opportunity to share her recommendations for becoming mask-optional. Dr. Herrmann made a formal recommendation to the board to have District 128 become mask-recommended on Feb. 28.

“We have a very high vaccination rate amongst our students and staff and the whole community has really listened to what we said,“ she said. “The public health data that we all looked at and that the governor cited shows the data is declining and that by February 28, it should be at very low transmission rates.”

Dr. Herrmann further explained said in an email sent to the community that Feb. 28 is a good target to become mask-recommended as it would allow “for students and staff who do have any health issues or need any time to prepare for this adjustment…it will give time for any adjustments.”

The recommendation provided by Dr. Herrmann was fully endorsed by the BOE.