CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Salt Fork superintendent Phil Cox was clear about how his district would respond to changes proposed by the Illinois High School Association regarding basketball.
They will follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines instead.
It’s a decision many area districts are weighing this week: Whether to consider basketball a high-risk sport due to COVID-19 and only allow no-contact practices and trainings — what IDPH is recommending — or whether to start practices as normal on November 16, which the Illinois High School Association called permissible on October 28.
“As you can see, the IHSA announcement does not align with IDPH guidance,” Cox said in a statement.
Ultimately, Salt Fork opted to “take into consideration the advice being provided by our insurance carrier and district attorney.”
“Our insurance carrier has made it clear that schools districts do not have liability insurance coverage for COVID-related lawsuits, meaning the district would have to cover the cost of any litigation,” he said. “Furthermore, our attorney has indicated that individual school board members (and administrators) would likely be held personally liable if the district moves forward and plays basketball games in violation of IDPH guidelines. This means that board members and administrators could and would be named personally in lawsuits and would have to personally cover the cost of their own defense. In addition, if they were to lose the suit, their personal assets (bank account, house, car, etc.) could be seized to pay any of the damages awarded. In my opinion, it is unfair to ask any board member to place themselves in a position where this could happen.”
Cox went on to say that it is “incumbent on Gov. Pritzker, the IDPH, and the IHSA to work together on a resolution to this matter. Local school boards throughout the state have been placed in a no-win situation.”
Coaches in that district have been advised to follow IDPH guidelines until further notice.
That was the decision of the Rantoul Township High School board of education Monday night as well, as members there voted to align themselves with IDPH over IHSA.
Tonight, the Urbana school board will discuss the same thing, as will the Monticello school board in a special meeting on Wednesday evening.
Other districts, including Decatur and Springfield schools, have also opted not to play basketball this winter.