CLINTON — Parents of Illinois students filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against 145 school districts, including Erie and River Bend, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The lawsuit, filed with the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Macoupin County, Illinois, asks for an injunction against mask mandates and forced quarantines.

Earlier this year, a parent advocacy group in Madison County, Illinois asked its school board to make masks in its school optional, Ryan Cunningham, of parent organization Speak For Students, said Wednesday.

But Gov. Pritzker mandated in August that all eligible students and school employees be vaccinated and that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask indoors.

Cunningham and other parents partnered with Attorney Tom Devore to file lawsuits against several school districts for mask exemptions. “Tom had filed them for different schools in this area,” Cunningham said.

The Fifth Appeals Court didn’t rule on the merits of the case, said Cunningham, but it said the plaintiffs needed to add the governor and the state board of education to the list of defendants.

Devore began consolidating all the district cases into one case against the state, opening the suit to other school districts in Illinois, Cunningham said. Group leaders in each school district raised money to add their school districts to the lawsuit.

“We did all of this in the course of four or five days,” said Cunningham. “It is going to be huge.”

Named among the plaintiffs in the case are Nicole Wells and Amy Ryan, parents of students who attend Erie Community Unit School District #1, and Eric and Sara Pessman, Kyle and Magen Folk, Jeremy and Marla Wiersema and Tony and Shannon Huizenga, parents of students who attend River Bend Community Unit School District #2 in Fulton, Illinois.

River Bend Superintendent Darryl Hogue said Wednesday that the District had not yet been officially notified about the lawsuit.

In a Facebook video in early October, DeVore said he had filed 14 or 15 lawsuits against school districts for their exclusion and mask policies. One case went to the appellate court. The court had no opinion on the merit of the case, he said.

“They merely said that ... we needed to add Gov. Pritzker, the ... State Department of Health and the State Board of Education as parties to this case and bring them in front of the court to address the issue of, ultimately, whether the governor and these administrative agencies are able to force these types of measures on citizens, notwithstanding the law has protections of due process in place before you can do those types of things,” DeVore said.

“We’re going to bring this case, one unified case, on behalf of numerous parents, teachers, etc., across the state,” DeVore said. “And we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

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Senior Staff Writer

A native of Centerville, Winona joined the Clinton Herald in November 2018 after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.