Mask lawsuit divides districts as regulations loosen


Kaitlyn Devitt

Passing periods are a time with the greatest contact and exposure between students as they crowd halls and stairways without social distancing.

On Feb. 6, as the weekend drew to a close, an email by Dr. Mary Ticknor was sent out to students and families in Lemont informing the community of a recent lawsuit filed in the state claiming, “Defendants are temporarily restrained from enforcing indoor masking in schools and excluding close contacts of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.”

This lawsuit has temporarily suspended the enforcement of masks being worn in schools by students and faculty, meaning it is no longer required to wear a face covering when in the building or on campus. 

“I don’t know if we’ll go back to requiring masks, it all depends on how things are handled legally,” Dean Robert Hammerschmidt responded in an interview. 

As of right now, it is unsure whether this new regulation will stay in place or return to the former policy, with the largest weighing factor of the decision resting on the Illinois court system. The day after the initial ruling the Illinois attorney general’s office filed for an appeal. 

 “I think we’ll probably go back, we don’t know enough about it and another variant will probably come back,” said a teacher who asked to remain anonymous.

According to vaccination documentation gathered by Lemont High School, 42.9% of students at Lemont are vaccinated. Despite this relatively low percentage many students have decided to stop wearing masks while in the building. 

To further analyze these statistics, a poll was sent out to students to gather information. When asked whether or not they work masks to school after the mandate change, 135 students responded.

The results were almost evenly split in half with 48.9% of students admitting they no longer wear a mask while 51.1% of the student population continue wearing them despite the change. (Natalie Barowsky)

Freshman Olivia Marda has stopped wearing her mask as she said, “I feel like I don’t need to since it’s optional,” this seems to be the general consensus around the school as students and staff alike have decided that face coverings are no longer necessary. 

Other students disagree with this remark and believe it is still too soon for this new policy. “I think masks should remain mandated until covid case numbers drop further,” said freshmen Ben Antonitis who continues to wear a mask despite the new enforcement. 

Senior Annemarie Bacon commented that she believes, “everyone should have personal freedom, but safety is a bigger issue.” 

Since the ruling, Bacon has continued to wear a mask as well as many other students and teachers that are fully vaccinated. Despite being considered safe by the CDC this percentage of the school still believes it is critical to wear a mask until vaccination numbers increase in Lemont and COVID cases decrease. 

“It would be okay if it were a safe thing to do but we are not there yet,” said junior Belle Zogby.

But regardless of these points it is increasingly popular for LHS population to forgo the mask in favor of returning to a more normal school year. 

When asked why she decided not to wear a mask following the mandate change, junior Reagan Russell said “I have already had covid and am fully vaccinated and boosted. I was not worried about my safety and was excited to feel like normal again.”

This seems to be a common opinion around campus, with many vaccinated students and teachers not feeling as though it is crucial for them to wear a mask after receiving their shots. Although another portion of those giving up on masks have never believed in them in the first place. 

Junior Ben Austin has given up wearing a mask at school and said that “I don’t like the way it feels.” Austin and his family are all unvaccinated and he also said, “I think [COVID-19] should be treated like the cold or flu.” 

The multitude of facts and opinions being thrown around about the subject is beginning to have a polarizing effect in school, as many have strong beliefs that they’re not willing to budge on.

“Everyone is so divided,” commented Zogby.

A mask wearer who asked to remain anonymous answered that, “Wearing a mask isn’t political, people are dying because imbeciles think the government thinks they’re tracking us. If you’re stupid enough to think that this pandemic isn’t scary and important you’re sick.” 

As of now, the policy change is still too new to be considered a concrete part of the rest of our school year.