Judge Paul Fullerton denied the request for a temporary restraining order against the IHSA in a ruling Thursday afternoon in the DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton.
Fullerton felt the IHSA had not acted against its own constitution by adjusting the sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year without a vote of the member schools.
Fullerton heard arguments from attorney Jeff Widman, representing three parents as plaintiffs in the case, and from IHSA attorney David Bressler on Thursday afternoon, reviewed those statements and facts of the case for about 40 minutes, then returned with his decision.
At the center of the plaintiffs’ argument was that the IHSA acted against its own constitution and by-laws by changing the sports seasons without a membership vote. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IHSA adjusted its seasons to four instead of three, delaying three fall sports (football, volleyball and boys soccer) until February through May because they are considered higher risk sports during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bressler argued that the IHSA had not amended its by-laws, which would have required a membership vote, but merely adjusted for safety reasons amid the pandemic.
While Fullerton agreed that the plaintiffs raised legitimate questions in their argument, he also thought the IHSA had not gone against its by-laws since the changes were made during an emergency situation.
“We have to recognize that again we’re in a pandemic,” Fullerton said. “I’m sitting in a courtroom and everybody’s wearing a mask. I’m sitting behind plexiglass. We’re in an extraordinary circumstance and when things like this happen, people take action.
“Drastic times call for drastic remedies. I think what the association did was within their bounds. The motion brought before me for an emergency temporary restraining order is denied.”
Following Fullerton's ruling, IHSA executive director Craig Anderson released a statement recognizing the importance of athletics to students’ mental, emotional and physical well-being.
“Our defense was not a rebuttal against expanding the participation opportunities of high school athletes in Illinois,” Anderson said. “The IHSA has and continues to believe that we can safely conduct high school sports in Illinois throughout the 2020-21 school year. We are already conducting cross country, golf, swimming and diving and tennis seasons this fall, with a plan in place to run all sports in modified seasons this school year.
“It is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 is real. It has had an immeasurable impact on our state and country. We want to see IHSA student-athletes safely return to the fields and courts, just as so many high school student-athletes in surrounding states have. We believe we can mitigate many of the risks of the virus and successfully provide these opportunities for our students.”
Fullerton said that he felt the IHSA acted within its authority.
“Does the (IHSA) have the ability to pass these guidelines without full support of the association? I believe they do,” Fullerton said. “In reading the by-laws, they must be read as a whole. You can take language in certain situations, but they are temporary adjustments and what the IHSA did was within their authority under the by-laws and constitution.”
Fullerton also said this was not the end of the case and set a status hearing for 9 a.m. Monday.