Eye On Illinois: Penalizing mandatory ‘health-related precautions’ an overbroad solution

One of the first things required when I sought certification as a baseball umpire with the Illinois High School Association was passing an online Concussion Management Program examination, good for two years.

In so doing, I learned IHSA coaches have to complete a similar program every other year, athletes and families sign off on paperwork each season and the schools create concussion oversight teams to establish protocols for letting athletes who exhibit head injury symptoms get back to the classroom and off the sidelines.

Following National Federation of States High School Associations rules, umpires are required to remove from play “Any player who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems),” and they can’t return “until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”

There are plenty of brain injury concerns in baseball, and other sports carry a greater risk factor. Having these systems in place represent a common-sense approach to a serious problem, but they could be drastically altered or eliminated under House Bill 4149, which state Rep. David Welter, announced in a press release this week.

According to Welter, R-Morris, the bill “would prohibit the state or any local entity, agency, institution, official, or person from requiring a minor to obtain a health care service or take a health-related precaution.”

Parents could recover up to “$1,000 per day for the duration of the violation.”

Beyond jeopardizing concussion protocol – would you referee a basketball game if that meant being between professional obligation and parents threatening a civil lawsuit because they insist Johnny Point Guard didn’t get his bell rung? – the law as written also puts a damper on long-standing practices like sending kids home from school if they spike a fever or throw up in the classroom.

Of course, the law isn’t about concussions or vomit. It’s about masks and vaccines, as is so much of public policy debate today.

“I am deeply concerned that parental rights are not being taken into consideration by those advocating one-size-fits-all mandates with regard to COVID mitigation,” Welter wrote. “These actions are setting a dangerous precedent that threaten to eradicate the role of parents in all future public health situations beyond COVID. I cannot stand by and be silent in the face of this fundamental threat to our democracy that would deny a parent the ability to make medical decisions for their child.”

Yet Welter – a COVID-19 survivor and advocate of masks and vaccines – proposes his own blanket solution, one that might be well intentioned but has obvious, inherent flaws undercutting its legislative viability. Parents have a role in children’s health, but the word “public” carries its own weight that can’t be overlooked.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.