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Prep Sports

DuPage County parents file lawsuit against IHSA

Demonstrators listen to a speaker at the "Let Us Play" rally in support of a return to high school sports on Sept.19 at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago
Demonstrators listen to a speaker at the "Let Us Play" rally in support of a return to high school sports on Sept.19 at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago

Three parents of high school athletes from DuPage County filed a lawsuit against the IHSA on Tuesday, saying it violated its own by-laws with its Return to Play Guidelines that altered the 2020-21 high school sports season in Illinois.

Parents Dave Ruggles, Chris Warden and Kelly Ridges all have children who play sports and filed the lawsuit on behalf of their own children and others similarly situated in Illinois.

Ruggles is the father of a basketball player, Warden is the father of a football player, and Ridges is the mother of a son who plays football and wrestles and a daughter who competes in competitive dance.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and safety regulations mandated by Gov. JB Pritzker, the IHSA modified its sports seasons for the school year, delaying football, volleyball and boys soccer, which were considered higher-risk sports, until a season in February through May.

Neither Pritzker nor the Illinois Department of Public Health is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

As all of the states surrounding Illinois have returned to play in all sports, particularly football, many sports fans pleaded their case to Pritzker. Let Them Play rallies have been held across the state.

But Pritzker has kept a hard line on restricting the return of certain sports deemed to be riskier than others. So the decision to return to some sports has, in essence, been out of the IHSA’s hands.

Some fall sports – boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming – are competing this fall.

Boys and girls basketball, boys swimming and wrestling are scheduled to start Nov. 16 and run through Feb. 13. The football, volleyball and boys soccer seasons are scheduled from Feb. 15 through May 1, then the spring sports – baseball, softball, boys and girls track and field, boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse, boys gymnastics and girls soccer – are set from May 3 through June 26.

The parents also are seeking a temporary restraining order to invalidate the IHSA's Return to Play Guidelines.

The IHSA organizes and conducts the interscholastic athletics of its member schools, including the timing of sports seasons, according to the IHSA constitution and IHSA by-laws. The IHSA Board of Directors issued guidelines that altered the sports seasons mandated by the by-laws, including an outright ban on certain sports during time periods to which the IHSA by-laws limit those sports. The suit argues that these amendments to the IHSA by-laws were not enacted through the legislative process that the IHSA constitution requires.

Therefore, the plaintiffs "respectfully ask the court to enter a declaration of rights that the Return to Play and Contact Day Guidelines are invalid – and therefore void – because the guidelines change the IHSA by-laws," according to the lawsuit.

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