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DuPage County Judge Rules Against Parent Group Suing Over High School Fall Sports

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A DuPage County judge late Thursday afternoon ruled against a group of parents suing to get their kids back on the playing field.

It was a relatively quick decision with the hearing beginning around 2 p.m. and the decision made around 3:30 p.m.

Some students will need to keep waiting to play certain sports. Parents asked for a temporary restraining order against the changes set in motion by the Illinois High School Association, which moved fall sports to the spring.

The group hoped to get higher risk contact fall sports like football and soccer back on competitive playing fields soon.

It argued Illinois is one of only a handful of states not allowing the full range of fall sports and there are substantial mental health impacts for students not being able to play. It also argued those hoping to get scholarships will lose out as colleges will instead recruit from schools in other states.

The judge denied that motion.

Those filing the lawsuit claimed the Illinois High School Association broke its own rules by moving certain fall sports to the spring without a vote.

The IHSA said its rules allow the organization to do that in the event of circumstances beyond its control, adding a pandemic is pretty much the definition of that.

"It's unfortunate," said football player Ethan Pytlak. "We know if we get an opportunity to play we can abide by the guidelines."

"What we really have here in this state is a bunch of cowards who are in charge of things," said David Ruggles, who filed the lawsuit. "They're not advocating for the kids, and they ask, 'What difference does it make?' They throw their hands up and they walk away."

The hope is sports like football can be played in February or early next year.

A lawsuit filed by the parents continues.   

The IHSA released the following statement from Executive Director Craig Anderson:

As the Executive Director of the IHSA and the father of a current three-sport high school student-athlete, I want to speak candidly to all the student-athletes, coaches, and parents who were following today's lawsuit, and have been impacted by the modifications to the IHSA seasons due to the pandemic. First and foremost, we know how important high school athletics are to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

While the IHSA defended itself in court, our defense was not a rebuttal against expanding the participation opportunities for high school athletes in Illinois. 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 & diving, and tennis this fall, with a plan in place to run all sports in modified seasons this school year. If changes to that schedule are forthcoming, we feel that the path to achieving them is through collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and state leadership, as opposed to litigation.

The Honorable Paul Fullerton ruled in the IHSA's favor in the temporary restraining order, but had the temporary restraining order been granted, it would not have been a victory for IHSA student-athletes. Traditional IHSA fall sports like football, soccer, and girls volleyball would have remained on the sideline, along with all sports deemed medium or high risk, based upon the Youth Sports Guidelines set forth in state government's All Sports Policy.

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.

This lawsuit shines a light on the need for more data and transparency from IDPH and state leadership on what benchmarks need to be accomplished in order for the IHSA to conduct further sports offerings. We have and will continue to lobby our contacts at the state and IDPH levels, providing them with relevant data from across the country. If there are no changes by IDPH and state leadership, we will continue with our contingency plan of offering IHSA sports in the winter, spring, and summer. Our goal remains to provide every IHSA student-athlete the opportunity to compete in their respective sport or sports in 2020-21.

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