My email to the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) committee, in advance of their meeting in Chicago next week
I’m posting this email with the hope that it will help other Illinois parents hold our elected and appointed officials accountable for the mess they’ve made by pretending that schools have authority the law simply doesn’t afford. Awake Illinois has posted a modified version of this email, and JCAR member email addresses, that any parent can use. MAY 17, 2022 UPDATE: At their meeting, JCAR decided not to address this filing, saying they received numerous public comments and have questions for IDPH. This is good news, and I’m looking forward to that interrogation.
May 13, 2022
Dear Members of JCAR:
I’m reaching out regarding an entry in the Illinois Register: Rules of Governmental Agencies, filed May 6, 2022, which you’ll be reviewing at next week’s meeting.
On page 6969, the Illinois Department of Public Health makes a statement that warrants your objection:
"Schools continue to have long-standing authority to address confirmed, suspected and contacts of infectious disease cases, including COVID-19, independent of the emergency rulemaking and Executive Order 2022-03.”
This appears to be excerpted from a statement made by Dr. Ezike, submitted to your committee in March via the register.
This claim cites no section of the IL school code, and no part of the communicable diseases code. The word “address” is particularly problematic, as it allows for broad, errant interpretation by ISBE, local school boards, and local health department.
I worked with numerous schools across Illinois (and throughout the U.S.) for 20 years. As a professional and as a parent of two children, I am very familiar with how schools handled parental notification of communicable diseases.
Prior to 2020, schools never engaged in any kind of contact tracing - and they certainly didn’t tell children who had allegedly been “exposed” to a student diagnosed with a communicable disease that they had to stay home. I’m concerned schools may be violating FERPA by giving the kinds of information to health departments that they’ve been giving over the course of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, “guidance” from IDPH/ISBE continues to mislead schools about their authority. Schools do NOT have the power to do things that are very clearly under the jurisdiction of the health department.
You may recall that ISBE passed a resolution on September 7, 2021, asserting "77 IL Admin Code 690.30 grants Illinois schools the authority to exclude Illinois students from school due to contacts related to communicable and infectious diseases, including COVID-19.” This was - and is - false.
The cited section of the code afforded no such authority. If it did, the Governor would not have issued his September 17, 2021 Executive Order and associated emergency rules, which (unlawfully) gave schools authority that belongs only to the LHDs. I recently spoke to ISBE about their error, and sent the attached letter to the board, state superintendent, and ISBE general counsel, requesting that ISBE rescind that resolution.
According to minutes from JCAR’s October 2021 meeting, no JCAR member objected to the Sept 17th emergency rules, despite the rules being in conflict with the law and other parts of code 690.
The only “addressing” of contacts that schools are independently afforded under the law is to give general notice to all students in a class, grade level, or school about the diagnosis of a case of a reportable communicable disease. For example, “a student in the third grade has been diagnosed with Influenza A,” or “there are multiple cases of lice at Jefferson School, “ accompanied by symptoms to watch for. I’m happy to provide examples of these kinds of notices from various school districts, if you’re interested.
I understand that the claim about schools' “long-standing” authority is not part of any proposed rule; nevertheless, if JCAR does not object to this statement, it gives tacit assent to the claim, which will continue to allow schools to “accuse” healthy children of sickness - and relegate them to 5+ days out of school or other requirements - for the alleged “crime” of exposure to an endemic, seasonal respiratory virus that poses very little harm to children, and has now infected upwards of 75% of the nation’s 73 million 0-17 year-olds.
I would love to speak further with each of you about how these unprecedented widespread close-contact quarantines that IDPH has used - and continues to “bless” - have harmed thousands of children in this state.
If existing laws don’t provide legislators with enough clarity about a school’s authority, then new laws must be passed - laws that protect better protect student privacy and right to an in-person education.
At minimum, please call IDPH in front of your committee next week, and ask agency staff to explain their understanding of exactly what schools can and can’t do, under the law, and why. You may need to call ISBE staff as well.
Illinois parents should not be faced with even another week, let alone another year, of misguided, unlawful protocols that needlessly disrupt their children’s in-person education.
Related: @wsos_illinois has posted examples of emails that citizens sent to JCAR in September 2021, regarding the illegality of IDPH’s emergency rules. JCAR members each had a chance to object to the filing at their October meeting. Per meeting minutes, there were no objections.