Stevenson High School students walk out over school masks as plane flies banner overhead

Saturday, February 12, 2022
Battle over masks in schools ratchets up in suburbs
A group of parents and students rallied outside of Stevenson High School to protest the district's mask requirement and even hired a plane to fly banner.

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. (WLS) -- The battle over masks in schools continues to ratchet up throughout the Chicago area.

A group of parents and students rallied outside of Stevenson High School to protest the district's mask requirement Friday morning.

Gregory Abshire walked out of the building along with dozens of other classmates.

"We are walking out today to, not prove that masks are right or wrong, but it's about the power of choice," Abshire said. "Everyone should have the choice whether or not they want to protect themselves and the school shouldn't be forcing this on us."

Students walked out of class at Stevenson High School Friday morning where masks are still required.

The group rented a plane that flew over the Lincolnshire school with a banner urging the district to "unmask our kids."

READ MORE: Chicago Archdiocese mask mandate lifts; questions remain for other schools

"All the parents here aren't saying, you know take masks out forever, we want a choice and I think that is fair," said Nina Sibo, protest co-organizer. "And I feel like we're at that point where it's time for a choice."

Stevenson student Jake Shapiro plans to leave his mask on.

"It's fine," he said. "We still get along and everything. You know it's all good. We respect our differences."

As of Friday, students at Batavia High School are not required to wear masks. District officials said they would prefer everyone wear a mask, but they say they cannot enforce that rule and it has become a major distraction.

RELATED: Is Gov. Pritzker lifting Illinois mask mandate for political reasons?

"We have one job: to educate students," District 101 Supt. Lisa Hichens said. "And this week, every day it has intensified and learning is taking a back seat."

Batavia school officials said that while they're making masks optional for now, all other COVID mitigation strategies remain in place. And if the COVID numbers go in the wrong direction, they will consider making masks mandatory again.

Some parents and students also demonstrated outside Naperville's Neuqua Valley High school Friday morning, where the district is enforcing a mask mandate for all students. Protestors said they are violating the ruling last week that struck down Gov. JB Pritzker's mandate.

"It's unfortunate the parents are now having to litigate this themselves," parent Jeff Berger said. "The students are having to peacefully demonstrate to show their disdain for what is going on."

Jeff Berger said if the appeals court rules in favor of a mask mandate next week, they will follow the law.

RELATED: Illinois lifting mask mandate for some at end of February, Pritzker says

Metea Valley High School senior Libby Martinson said the Aurora school suspended her for refusing to wear a mask in class.

"When I said I can't afford to miss any more class, I'm within my rights to be here, I assumed they would let me stay," Martinson said.

"We were a little in shock," said her mother, Beth Martinson. "We weren't expecting her to be asked to leave and definitely not a threat of arrest."

Meanwhile there's more fallout Friday. Geneva District 304 confirmed that two school board members have resigned, one citing poor decision making of top officials to the Kane County Chronicle.

In Hampshire District 300 in the far northwestern suburbs, the high school switched to e-learning Friday. Officials said it is because of safety concerns with social media "threats to disrupt the educational environment."

Also, Kaneland District 302 in southwestern Kane County cancelled class Friday so administrators can plan mitigation strategies.