Court Cases

Parents, student athletes sue IHSA in protest of postponement of several fall sports

In response to the IHSA’s statewide regulations on fall sports, three parents of Illinois student athletes filed a class-action lawsuit on October 1. These parents from DuPage County sued the IHSA and sought a temporary restraining order that would force the IHSA to reverse changes they made to the sports schedule due to COVID-19. A county judge has since denied the request.

The lawsuit asserted that the IHSA violated its own constitution when it changed the sports schedule without introducing it to the IHSA Legislative Commission first. In addition, the parents who filed the complaint also claim that the decision to postpone fall contact sports has hurt students both financially and mentally. 

Although this lawsuit was filed on behalf of the students, their parents were more involved in the law process. Parents have also been a major influence in the creation of petitions and social media groups with aims to influence the IHSA into reversing their decision. However, Paula Cohn, whose daughter plays field hockey and lacrosse at Stevenson, believes many parents support the IHSA guidelines and restrictions.

I do not agree with the litigation that has been initiated by parents to restart sports because my sense is that the majority of parents support the decisions made by the IHSA, as those decisions are consistent with the science and recommendations of experts,” Cohn said.

Like Cohn, Stevenson varsity soccer player Daniel Saltzman ’22 believes that students’ and coaches’ health should be a priority during the pandemic. He doesn’t find the regulations to be unreasonable at all.

“I agree with the regulations imposed by the IHSA — COVID is not a joke and it should not be treated like one,” Saltzman said. “The health of students should be the priority and they have taken measures such that it still is.”

Though its website says it has no official connection with the state government, the IHSA allowed Pritzker to take control of the plans for a COVID accommodating high school sports schedule on July 14. Since then, questions have arisen about whether the IHSA itself may want to lessen restrictions on fall sports. 

However, when IHSA executive director Craig Anderson sent a letter to Pritzker requesting that the IHSA be given back authority over fall sports schedules, Pritzker stood firm in his decision to postpone contact sports, even as all of Illinois’ neighboring states have restarted sports like football.

Although the since-rejected lawsuit was aimed specifically at the IHSA, Pritzker has also been facing backlash from student athletes and their parents. On September 19, students held rallies in Chicago and Springfield. They held an additional protest outside the governor’s house on September 27 in an attempt to pressure the state government into reversing their decision. 

According to Stevenson Athletic Director Tricia Betthauser, Stevenson has not faced pressure from parents or students to ease limitations on sports or to attempt to use their influence as an IHSA member school to encourage the IHSA to reverse decisions on its sports schedule. Still, Betthauser believes that honesty is best in situations where the school must oppose certain parent or student requests for the sake of safety.

“I feel the best way to address parent or student concerns is with open dialogue and communication,” Betthauser said.

Stevenson’s head football coach Brent Becker shared a similar sentiment, also stressing the importance of being honest and upfront with all community members in these uncertain times, but expressed concern for his students should their sports be canceled next spring. 

“Some of our spring athletes last school year had to go through that [sports being banned in the spring] and it was really heartbreaking, for those seniors especially because they didn’t get to participate in their senior season,” Becker said.

Even for many students who feel that the IHSA is making the right decision in regards to safety, the cancelation is still disappointing and causes other difficulties. 

“I know that many fellow athletes are relying on sports to get into college,” Saltzman said. “With the limited season, I’m sure it must be very difficult to get scouted.”

Becker understands how disheartening the loss of opportunity might seem to his student athletes. Ultimately, though, he feels that the Stevenson administration and the IHSA’s regulations are trying to find the best balance between protecting students’ well-being without sacrificing important opportunities for their futures.

“I think every organization is doing the best they can right now to allow opportunities under the guidelines that we’ve been given and at the same time keep kids healthy,” Becker said.