Maskless students at Downers Grove North High School in Illinois are being segregated and shunned for refusing to participate in their district’s mask theater.
Despite a recent ruling from an Illinois court that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide mask mandate for students is “null and void,” the school board for District 99, which encompasses part of the southwest Chicago suburbs, is still forcing students to wear masks or risk “consequences” such as segregation, bullying, and a lack of teaching.
Approximately 100 students at DGNHS who chose to go maskless in classrooms beginning last week as a result of the ruling were smeared as a “distraction” by the school and escorted out of their classrooms by security guards into rooms away from masked students and teachers.
“We are at school but not allowed to attend our classes,” one student who spoke at a recent school board meeting said.
“Why are we not allowed to sit silent in the classroom without a piece of paper on our face? We’re losing our right to an education,” another frustrated student said at the same board meeting.
For hours, students were forced to sit quietly in rooms, miss their normal class schedule, and eat lunch separately from the kids who wore masks.
“We got certain bathrooms that we could use and you had to ask. And we were told that you have three minutes in the bathroom. One person was allowed in the hallway. We weren’t allowed to be near any kids with masks on because we were told that we’re a distraction. We’re basically segregated at the school and locked in rooms all day,” Emma Rausch, a junior at DGNHS, told The Federalist.
The district claims that maskless students had access to classroom materials via district-issued Chromebooks but the high schoolers at DGNHS who refused to wear face coverings say they aren’t getting the same educational rigor they require through materials posted to Google Classroom.
“Teachers barely sent us any work and we had to get the principal involved. Thursday was the first day I got any of my schoolwork for the entire week,” Rausch said.
“My grades have already dropped since last week,” Brooks Johnson, a senior at DGNHS, said at the Monday school board meeting.
Mallory Dobbertin, a junior at DGNHS, said that some maskless students did not have access to desks so they were forced to complete asynchronous schoolwork with their laptops on their laps. Others had to beg for access to printers.
“I got a couple of emails, a couple of Google Classroom posts but not all classes posted work. So I’m going to be pretty behind on all that,” Dobbertin said in a video posted to her dad’s Facebook. “A lot of us didn’t have adequate learning facility or schoolwork to do.”
Other districts in the same area, much like most of the nation, have already ditched mask mandates. While DGNHS students are forced to mask or lose access to the classroom, many of their younger siblings attend class mask-free and without retaliation.
“I feel like as an American citizen at a public school I have all right to exercise my freedoms, especially if I am not being disrespectful or hurting anyone,” Rausch said. “I’m tired of them shutting me down and keeping me quiet.”
Maskless DGNHS students have also been bullied by their peers and school administrators for speaking out for freedom of choice and respectfully protesting face coverings.
“We have seen a lot of disrespect for our stance on masks,” one student confessed at a school board meeting on Monday. “And just on the way to get lunch, we will get yelled at multiple times by people sitting at a table maskless with all of their friends.”
“We recently lost my husband and my children have had to listen to kids say ‘shouldn’t you wear masks? Your dad just died,'” Erica Rausch, Emma’s mom, told school board members.
One student at the school board meeting even alleged that a teacher told her class “I hate them” as maskless students were escorted from the classroom.
DGNHS students are fighting hard for the right to get an education and not wear a mask, and their parents are involved. Tom Dobbertin, Mallory’s father, said hearing how his maskless daughter was yanked from her classroom made him realize the time for change is now.
“I’m getting to that point where I think I’m going to have to [run for school board],” he told The Federalist. “I’ve got six children. I’ve got a couple in college, a couple in elementary school, one in high school. I’m going to be in this district for at least another eight to 10 years. And so I think I’m gonna have to do this. I’m going to have to step up and get involved. … We moved to this area because of how great it was 18-20 years ago. It has changed dramatically.”
After nearly two years of masking and other hindering Covid-19 protocols enacted by the district, the school board at DGNHS voted on Monday to remove the mask mandate in favor of “recommended masking.” The new protocol, however, does not go into effect until Feb. 28 leaving students who continue to be separated from their classrooms for not covering their face vulnerable to another week of a less-than-ideal education. Students who do not comply with the district’s mask theater this week, the district told The Federalist, will be handed an unexcused absence which not only affects their classroom participation but determines whether they can participate in extracurricular activities.