Students protest school mask mandate


Aiden Spenner

A student is seen throwing away their mask as mandates are lifted throughout the district.

Katrina Viloria, Online Editor-in-Chief

District 204 will transition from mask required to mask recommended starting Tuesday, Feb. 22. This follows the ruling by Sangamon County judge Raylene Grichow granting a temporary restraining order (or TRO) on mask mandates on Feb. 7. The TRO prohibits mask requirements for certain students in numerous school districts across the state. Parents filed lawsuits against school districts across the state, including District 204, and against Governor J.B. Pritzker. 

Following Grichow’s ruling, some students started protesting against their schools in response to Pritzker holding off on the mask optional.

“I choose to protest because I don’t really see any other way that this is going to be changed in my school,” Neuqua Valley senior Will Wysoglad said. 

Wysoglad and other Neuqua students began their protest last Monday where they participated in what they called “maskless Monday.” At first, they were written disciplinary referrals, but not removed from school. Wysoglad and his family received an email that evening saying if he showed up to school on Tuesday, he would be escorted out.

On Wednesday, some Neuqua students, including Wysoglad, organized a maskless walk out. Neuqua teachers, school resource officers, and squad cars arrived at the scene. Then, students planned a maskless walk in on Friday. Wysoglad and about 20 students participated as well as about 20 parents arrived in support.

“My end goal is obviously to make masks optional in all Illinois schools that are still enforcing the mask mandate,” Wysoglad said.  “I really just want my school to follow the law.”

District 204 Superintendent Adrien B. Talley released a statement last Sunday stating that the district will transition into masks recommended, not required, for grades K-12 and staff on Feb. 22. 

Federal law still requires students riding the bus to wear masks.

“We’re going to continue to teach students in our classrooms,” principal Dr. Darrell Echols said. “If someone’s comfort level isn’t where they want it, they can wear their mask.”

Seven students at Metea Valley protested the school mask mandate over the last week. Some opted to go home and some stayed in school and put on masks.

“We just had honest conversations,” Echols said. “We didn’t want them to miss school, told them the importance of education, and that we’ve gone this far with masks.”

There was back and forth between the district and those advocating for the mask recommended option. 

“I want to thank the people in the community for being patient and giving us a chance to work this out. We know it’s an uncomfortable time,” Echols said. “We’re trying to come out in a way that makes everyone comfortable and makes everyone feel heard.”