NAUVOO, Ill. (KHQA) — The Nauvoo-Colusa School District decided earlier this week to exempt some unvaccinated staff from weekly COVID-19 testing.
Governor JB Pritzker, D-Illinois, announced on Aug. 26, 2021, that vaccines would be required for all PK-12 teachers and staff, all higher education staff and students, and all hospital staff.
Those who choose not to get the vaccine or cannot due to medical or religious reasons must then undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
RELATED: Nauvoo-Colusa School Board votes on weekly COVID-19 testing requests
Some unvaccinated Nauvoo-Colusa staff members had requested exemptions from weekly COVID-19 testing claiming they have the right to do so under Illinois' Health Care Rights and Conscience Act.
For that reason, they said they are not defying the governor’s executive order.
Nauvoo-Colusa School Board President Joe Radel said the school board voted Monday night to grant some unvaccinated staff members’ request not to get tested weekly.
"Basically, what we voted on was, and we were under council on this from our lawyer, that we are going to accept the Health Care Rights and Conscience Act paperwork from the teachers," Radel said. "That will allow them not to test or be vaccinated."
Almost a dozen teachers asked for the exemptions.
Those requests were submitted after Gov. Pritzker’s executive order.
The executive order requires all school staff to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.
"What they brought forth was they felt like that's discrimination because not everyone has to be tested," Nauvoo-Colusa School Superintendent Kent Young said.
Illinois passed the Health Care Rights and Conscience Act in 1997.
The law makes it, "unlawful to discriminate in relation thereto, in any other manner, on account of the applicant's refusal to receive, obtain, accept, perform, counsel, suggest, recommend, refer, assist or participate in any way in any forms of health care services contrary to his or her conscience."
Young said these types of exemptions create challenges for schools because they are not always defined well.
"That's why this whole COVID thing is a real challenge because it is being challenged in court," Young said. "And until they start making decisions, it's difficult for school districts."
KHQA asked to speak with the attorney who represents the Nauvoo-Colusa school district for more information but was unsuccessful in reaching that person.
The Nauvoo-Colusa School District is on the Illinois State Board of Education's probation list because the school district made face masks optional rather than mandated per the governor’s executive order.