St. Charles teacher files lawsuit over Illinois vaccine mandate

ST. CHARLES, Ill. (WLS) -- Pushback against the vaccine mandate for Illinois teachers and public workers like firefighters and police is growing.

Six firefighters in Naperville are now suing over the mandate, and one suburban teacher who was sent home from her job is also filing suit over vaccine enforcement.

Nicole Cournaya said she would rather be teaching her second grade class, but the St. Charles elementary school she has taught at for 22 years sent her home on Monday because she's not vaccinated.

"I was told I had to leave the building because I didn't follow the governor's mandate," Cournaya said.

Cournaya is one of four west suburban school employees who have filed suit against their districts and a number of state agencies, including Governor JB Pritzker. They said the governor has no legal right to mandate vaccination or testing.

"Our point is legal not medical," attorney Patrick Walsh said. "We are pro-constitution, not anti-vaccine."

The school employees are among a growing number of public and private sector workers who are being forced out of their jobs because of their refusal to get vaccinated.

Six Naperville firefighter/paramedics have filed another suit naming governor Pritzker and others as well, asking the court to declare his vaccine mandate unconstitutional.

In the meantime, however, the superintendent for the Geneva school district said he had no choice in a statement, saying: "We are thankful to Geneva CUSD 304 school personnel for complying with this executive order as we continue to navigate an evolving situation. Our goal remains focused on supporting in-person learning for our students while protecting the health and safety of our entire school community."

Cournaya, however, said the health of her students is extremely important to her. She always wears a mask and keeps socially distant in class.

"I have stayed healthy," Cournaya said. "If I were sick I would never in my life put anyone in jeopardy. My colleagues, my students, I wouldn't come to school."

Because employers generally are unable to disclose information about personnel, its unclear how many employees around the state have been sent home from work because they aren't vaccinated. But the attorney said that based on the number of inquiries he's gotten, he believes it is a sizable number.
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