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Darren Bailey rallies in Peoria to end PPS mask mandate


Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 7:36 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - More than 100 filled a Peoria bar Monday evening to rally against a mask mandate at Peoria Public Schools.

State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey hosted this event at Crusens on War Memorial Drive in Peoria to put pressure on school districts like PPS to “Unmask the Children.”

The event included speeches from several community members, including two PPS students, who spoke out against the district’s ongoing mask mandate.

“I’ve been threatened many times with suspension for standing up for my rights and no longer wearing a mask,” Richwoods High School student Amia Velazquez said. “What happened to our freedoms? I think District 150 should make masks optional for all.”

Last week, an appellate ruling allowed school districts “local control” to choose their own masking policy, with many districts in Central Illinois opting for a mask-optional approach. It’s something many Republicans, including Bailey, have advocated for for months.

On Friday, PPS leaders said they were “gratified” with the court’s decision and reaffirmed their mask mandate. Bailey says doesn’t track with public opinion.

“While I do believe in local control, I do have a hard time believing that a majority of parents from what I’m hearing want that for their children,” Bailey said.

Bailey says putting pressure on the board at meetings is one way that masking policies could be changed. But ultimately says it is up to the board to choose whether or not the policy gets changed.

“The message to the school board is make sure you’re representing your community, first and foremost,” Bailey said. “If they can figure out the community wants the school to be masked, I get it... I hope the school board will stand up and do the right thing for the children, and for the parents, for the school and for the education of Illinois.”

Some PPS parents we spoke with Monday say they want to keep the masks on.

“It’s pretty much like a comfort thing, a safety thing,” parent Ronnie Common said. “If I’m wearing a mask, I want my kids to wear one too.”

“All it takes is for one kid to cough on him, or to breathe that in and he’ll bring it home,” parent Nathan King said.

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