WHT Law

Legal News

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March 2017

  • A new House Bill, HB 3489, would allow parents/guardians of special education students the option to enroll their child into a school district in which the child was previously enrolled (if located within the same county) if granted permission by the resident school district.
  • The National School Boards Association has published an updated Transgender Students in Schools guidance document, which includes updated legal rulings and President Trump’s February 2017 revocation of previous guidance created by former President Obama’s administration.
  • A pending Illinois House Bill, HB 826, would prohibit school social workers from providing services outside of their employment to any students with the school district, and makes a specific recommendation for a student to social worker ratio of 250 to 1.

February 2017

  • A newly pending Illinois House Bill 1779 (focusing on disciplinary measures in schools) would prohibit the arrest or citation of a student for a criminal offense committed during school hours on school grounds, in school vehicles or at school activities. The act instead encourages the use of school psychologists, social workers and other non-punitive measures, to more appropriately respond to disciplinary incidents.
  • A proposed Senate Bill, SB 1483, would alter a school district’s deadline to provide parents inspection and copying rights to their child’s school records from 15 school days to 5 business days.
  • A new Senate Bill, SB 912, would require mandated DCFS reporters (including all school personnel) to complete 4 hours a year of training to recognize signs of domestic violence.

January 2017

  • Illinois’ residency statute has been modified (by PA 099-0670), to allow parents to appeal a residency ruling by a school board to the Regional Office of Education.
  • Proposed Illinois House Bill 261 would allow school districts to provide housing (rent or mortgage) assistance to a homeless student if the cost is less than paying the transportation costs for the student to attend their district of origin.
  • A newly pending Senate Bill, SB 11, would make significant changes to the Teachers’ Retirement System, including:
    • A $180,000 salary cap for state-funded pensions,
    • A replacement of the current 6% “cap” with the Consumer Price Index (CPI),
    • Election of TRS members to chose either a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) or a guaranteed 3% annual increase,
    • Option to participate in a 401K Plan, as opposed to the TRS.

December 2016

  • A new Illinois Appellate court decision, Mulvey v. Carl Sandburg High School, found that a district’s student handbook does not constitute a “contract,” and therefore the parents’ breach of contract claim that the district did not investigate a bullying incident pursuant to its policies in the handbook was void. The court also dismissed the parents’ claim that the district acted “willful and wantonly” in disregard of the incident, due to the school district’s tort immunity.
  • A recent due process hearing decision, Swanson by Swanson-Houston v. Yuba City School District, denied the parents’ complaint to chose a particular nurse to provide services to their Diabetic son.  The hearing officer argued that the school’s proposed nurse, who had 23 years experience and had worked with children with Diabetes before, and therefore the parents had “no legal support” to request a different school nurse who had previously worked with their son.

November 2016

  • A newly proposed Senate Bill, SB 565, would require age-appropriate developmental and social and emotional screenings to be conducted for every child as part of the examinations and procedures that constitute a health examination.
  • A newly proposed Senate Bill, SB 550, would require school districts and day care centers to test for lead in their drinking water supply. It is unknown whether this bill will pass Illinois’ House floor, however, as it is being opposed by various municipalities and water utility entities.
  • A pending Senate Bill 2822, which would provide additional funding for the Chicago Public Schools teacher pension fund, was vetoed by Governor Rauner.  The bill remains vetoed (despite attempts to override the veto by various Senate members) and will remain so until the new 100th Illinois General Assembly is sworn in at noon on January 11, 2017.

October 2016

  • The U.S. Department of Education issued its Final Regulations regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released non-regulatory guidance to support districts in preventing sexual misconduct, encourage reports of misconduct, improve responses to reports of misconduct and comply with applicable federal laws.
  • A new Illinois law, Public Act 99-0616, requires all teacher institute days to provide training every two years on the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding the school environment.

September 2016

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to make a final determination as to the definition of “meaningful educational benefit,” in special education cases through a new lawsuit, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1.   The U.S. Solicitor’s Office (on behalf of the US Department of Education) recently filed its Amicus Curiae brief, asking for the Court’s clarification as to whether “educational benefit” was “merely… more than de minimus,” or whether a more robust standard was required, a debate which has many of the federal courts across the country split.
  • An Illinois Federal District Court found in Martin ex rel. Estate of C.D.C. v. East St. Louis School District #189, that a school district was not guilty of a Section 1983 claim after it failed to prevent the rape of a female intellectually disabled student within the school. The judge pointed out that failing to lock the special education wing of the school did not lead to amount to the creation of a “dangerous situation,” and the fact that the girl was not being supervised 1:1 by a teacher did not amount to neglect, as “the district had no reason to believe [the boy] would push her into a janitor’s closet with her attacker.”
  • A Tennessee teacher was recently disciplined for keeping a Learning Disabled student in from recess to complete missing assignments. After the teacher “raised her voice to the student,” and prevented the child from attending at least 10 recesses due to unfinished work, the boy’s parents sued the school district for harassment, based on the boy’s disability.  The Office of Civil Rights investigated the incident, and found the teacher at fault, and the district guilty of failing to identify a “hostile environment” for the child.

August 2016

  • The Illinois State Board of Education released its first draft of the state’s plan to regulate the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”).  Comments from the public and organizations regarding the draft plan are being solicited, and are due by October 9, 2016.
  • A new Illinois public law, the Employee Sick Leave (PA 99-0743), allows employees to take off personal sick days for illnesses, injuries or medical appointments for not only themselves, but for immediate family members as well, including children, spouses, parents, in-laws, grandparents or stepparents.

July 2016

  • A new Illinois bill, HB 5902, sent to the Governor for signature, grants  student journalists first amendment rights to exercise freedom of speech and press rights within school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the school district or created as part of a school class.
  • The 7th Circuit Appellate panel recently found in Brown v. Chicago Board of Education that the school district had a right to fire a high school social studies teacher after he used a racial epithet in class as part of a classroom discussion. Because he was acting as a school district employee, and not as a “citizen,” at the time of the occurrence, First Amendment rights were not afforded to him.

June 2016

  • Proposed House Bill 4352, waiting for the Governor’s approval, would include the addition of a definition in the School Code for Dyslexia. More importantly, the bill requires the Illinois State Board of Education create an advisory group to develop a training module to be utilized for educators regarding multi-sensory, systematic, and sequential instruction in reading.
  • The National School Board Association recently published its Legal Guide on Transgender Student Issues, offering Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for school boards and staff regarding restroom and locker room access for transgender students.
  • A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2137, would require teacher training at least every two years on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) during teacher institutes.

May 2016

  • A newly proposed House Bill, HB4590, would allow greater transparency for adoptive parents regarding the medical histories of children whom they are considering to adopt. The new bill would require disclosure of the education, occupation, and lineage of the biological  parents, detailed medical histories (including mental health histories) of biological parents and their immediate relatives, information regarding existing siblings, and the reasoning behind the biological parents surrendering the children.
  • A new court ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, S.B. vs. Board of Educ. of Harford County, has found that school districts are only liable for student-on-student harassment under Section 504 if it is found to be “deliberately indifferent.” As such, the districts would only be held liable for monetary damages for the same if its “response… or lack thereof is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstance.”
  • In a recent court decision, Coomes v. Edmonds School District No. 15, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a former teacher bringing a wrongful termination suit against her school district following her voicing concerns regarding the school’s special education program. The court  concluded that the teacher’s speech was not protected by the First Amendment, even though it involved a matter of public concern, because it was made pursuant to her duties as an employee.

April 2016

  • Newly proposed Illinois House Bill 4234 would require the reporting of a student suspension to the parents/guardians of a student by certified mail, and would only allow for the suspension to take place after receipt by the parents/guardians.
  • A newly proposed Illinois House Bill 4606 would make changes to the notice requirements school districts have to provide to students whom they believe are non-residents of the school districts. The new bill would require schools to provide: 1) Specific reasons why they believe the student is a nonresident, 2) Disclosure of witnesses and evidence 3 days prior to a residency hearing, 3) An appeal process to the regional Superintendent of Schools, and 4) Allowance of the child to attend school while the hearing and appeals process is pending.
  • Proposed Illinois Senate Bill 2137 would require 15 days’ notice of a child bringing a service dog into a school environment. In addition, an amendment to the bill would also require all teachers to receive inservice training (every 2 years) on the Americans with Disabilities Act “as it pertains to the school environment.”

March 2016

  • The U.S. Department of Education has provided a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page regarding the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to support states and local education agencies in understanding expectations during the transition to full implementation of the new Act.
  • A U.S. Court of appeals for the 5th Circuit has ruled that obtaining a stay-put order pursuant to the IDEA is not sufficient to make a party a “prevailing party” entitled to attorney’s fees.  The three-judge panel in Tina M. v. St. Tammany Parish Sch. Bd., concluded that a stay-put order is the functional equivalent of a preliminary injunction, and an “automatic procedural safeguard,” which does not materially alter the legal relationship between the parties.

February 2016

  • Governor Rauner signed an Executive Order creating the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth (the “Children’s Cabinet”) to “streamline Illinois’ education and youth efforts across the state.” The Cabinet will work with health and human service providers, early childhood programs, elementary schools, high schools and post-secondary institutions to integrate the agencies and their missions, and to “drive the best outcomes for our students in Illinois.”  For more information, please see  the Governor’s press release on the Children’s Cabinet.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently found that the Chicago Public Schools did not commit age discrimination against a Principal whose contract it did not renew. In the case, Bordelon v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, the appellate panel agreed that just because the man’s supervisor had told the Principal “… it was time for [him] to give up,” that statement alone did not amount to enough evidence that it was discriminating against the man’s age.

January 2016

  • The Office of Special Ed and Rehabilitative Services has issued a new “Dear Colleague Letter” (66 IDELR 227), which mandates school districts to draft “grade level” goals for all children with disabilities, regardless of whether the child is independently functioning at grade-level in any particular area. The Letter suggests that appropriate modification of assignments can allow any student access to grade-level materials, despite low math or reading abilities.
  • A new School District Self-Assessment Checklist has been created for districts to use as guidance when updating and revising their discipline policies  based on the new PA 99-0456 requirements.  The checklist was developed by the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative, “a collaborative of organizations that are working to ensure that Illinois’ schools are safe and supportive for all students.”
  • The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities has created the first of its kind online training course which provides guidance on the education of children who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The course, The Many Faces of Autism, was developed for “parent, grandparent, neighbor, co-worker, teacher, bus driver, or librarian,” and any other service provider to “introduce you to characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and dispel common misconceptions through the experiences and perspectives of individuals on the autism spectrum.”  The course also provides continuing education credits for social workers.

December 2015

  • The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided in G.L. by Mr. G.L. and Mrs. E.L. v. Ligionier Valley School District Authority, that although the IDEA calls for a two-year statute of limitation period for filing FAPE claims, parents are still allowed to seek relief for violations that predate the two-year time period.  In the case, the parents of a disabled child filed for due process in 2012, but were seeking relief from the district for the time periods between 2008 and 2010. The District attempted to dismiss the matter, claiming the relief time period exceeded the two-year statute of limitations. However, the 3rd Circuit  refused, indicating that while the complaint filing time frame is solidified in the statute, the IDEA allows for a “broad remedial scheme,” and noted that several federal courts have awarded compensatory education as relief for time periods longer than two years.
  • The American Psychological Association (“APA”) has now published guidelines for psychologists working with transgender patients.  The guidelines follow the creation of an APA task force developed in 2009, and are focused on educating psychologists to better understand the lifespan development, stigma, discrimination and barriers to care faced by the transgender population.
  • Illinois was recently awarded $42 million in U.S. Department of Education funds to devote to strengthening the quality and accountability of its charter schools. In addition to the state-level awards, 12 charter management organizations (“CMOs”) also received awards, including Illinois’ Lawndale Educational and Regional Network and the Noble Network of Charter Schools.

November 2015

  • In a recent federal court decision, Oakland Unified School District v. N.S. ex rel. Genning and Samhal, a judge chastised a school district for failing to take a student’s mental health needs into account and blaming his behavior solely on drug use. The judge ruled in favor of the parents, allowing them to move forward with their claim for tuition reimbursement for their unilateral placement of their son, and indicated that if the district had evaluated the student’s mental health needs instead of attributing his problem behaviors to his drug use, it might have avoided an IDEA lawsuit.
  • In a new Illinois Appellate court decision, Earl v. Decatur Public Schools Board of Education, a judge agreed with the school district that the service learning hours required for high schoolers to graduate in Illinois did not constitute a form of “involuntary servitude.” The court remarked that the six hours required per year (for a total of 24 hours) was not considered “unreasonable, onerous, or unduly burdensome making it akin to involuntary servitude.”

October 2015

  • A new Illinois law, Public Act 98-0846, changes the child custody definition in Illinois to include “fictive kin” as a “relative” of a child, which is defined as,  “any individual, whether related or unrelated by birth or marriage, who is shown to have close personal or emotional ties with the child or the child’s family.”
  • Illinois was one of nine states awarded $9.2 million from the US Department of Education earmarked to improve personnel training systems to help children with disabilities. The money, granted to Illinois’ Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, will be utilized to reform and improve statewide systems for personnel preparation and professional development in early intervention, and well as for education and transition services for all special education students.
  • A new Illinois law, Public Act 99-0058 (a Vision 20/20 initiative), passed, authorizing ISBE to use specified monies to support the recruitment and retention of educators. It also makes changes concerning specific endorsements for chief school business officials, and other administrator and teaching licenses.

September 2015

  • In Foster v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, the 7th Circuit held that reimbursement for private speech-language therapy services fell within the scope of “compensatory education,” despite the parent’s failure to specify the remedy in her due process hearing request, ordering the school district to reimburse the parents for 25 sessions of services.
  • A new Illinois Public Act 99-0443 requires the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy, which includes certain components that school districts are required to adopt as part of their policies on suicide awareness.
  • A new Illinois Public Act 99-0058 (effective July 16, 2015) provides funding for ISBE to recruit and retain educators, and makes changes in licensure requirements for teachers, business officials, and administrator licensures, including the creation of a “Chief School Business Official,” endorsement.

August 2015

  • The U.S. Department of Education has released new guidance on testing English Language Learners with disabilities in annual English language proficiency assessments.

July 2015

  • A new Illinois bill, HB 2657, was sent to the Governor for signature which would authorize the ISBE to use previously-allocated moneys in supporting the recruitment and retention of educators. The bill will also make changes to certain endorsements for chief school business officials and other administrator and teaching licenses in Illinois.
  • A newly proposed SB 1793 would require the ISBE to develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy for adoption by school districts beginning during the 2015-2016 school year.

June 2015

  • A newly-proposed Senate Bill, SB 226, would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to implement a program designed to screen and register disabled children for the Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) waiting list for services.
  • Illinois Senate Bill 1591 was introduced, which would require charter school proposals to include any known civil or criminal investigations into an organization or member of the governing body of the organization.
  • A new Illinois bill, HB 2657, was sent to the Governor for signature which would authorize the ISBE to use previously-allocated moneys in supporting the recruitment and retention of educators. The bill will also make changes to certain endorsements for chief school business officials and other administrator and teaching licenses in Illinois.

May 2015

  • A newly proposed house bill, HB 2781, would allow school districts to create e-learning programs, permitting students to receive instruction electronically (not physically present at school) for a limited number of days during a school year.
  • ISBE, through proposed HB 3197, is in the process of forming a new committee, the Attendance Commission, to study chronic absenteeism and make recommendations for strategies to prevent chronic absenteeism.
  • A newly proposed Illinois senate bill, SB 706, would require non-public schools to perform criminal background checks on student teachers.

April 2015

  • A new Senate Bill, SB 100, was introduced that would make significant changes to student suspension and expulsion procedures, including:
    • Requiring Districts to include in a written expulsion decision specific reasons why expulsion is in the best interest of the school;
    • Prohibiting “zero tolerance” discipline policies;
    • Prohibiting suspensions for more than three days unless the student’s continuing presence would post a threat to school safety or disruption to other students’ learning opportunities;
    • Prohibiting 45-day removals unless all other appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary interventions have been exhausted (documentation required);
    • Provision of “appropriate and available supports” for students suspended more than four days;
    • Requiring a policy to facilitate the re-engagement of students who are suspended or expelled; and
    • Requiring a policy to allow students the opportunity to make up work for equivalent academic credit.
  • A new house bill, HB 3123, would amend the definition of “school counseling services,” to include: 1) Actively supporting students in need of special education services by implementing the academic, personal or social, and college or career development services or interventions as required by a school professional per an IEP, 2) Participating in or contributing to a student’s IEP, or 3) Completing a social developmental history.

March 2015

  • A new House Bill, HB 3190, mandates for school districts to provide parents information relating to free or reduced-cost legal help if the school board determines their student a non-resident of the school district.
  • A newly proposed House Bill, HB 3252, would create the Illinois School Choice Program, allowing for the payment of public funding to private schools through a voucher program.
  • A new House Bill, HB 3123, changes the definition of “school counseling services,” to include:
    • implementing academic, personal, social or career development services,
    • “participating in or contributing to,” a student’s IEP and
    • completing a social developmental history.

February 2015

  • The new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) testing was the subject of a legislative hearing to review testimony regarding the need, purpose, readiness and concerns about the standardized assessment. The hearing was called as a reaction to Chicago Public Schools’ position that it will not administer the assessment to the majority of its student population, an act which will put the state at risk of losing federal education dollars. At the close of the hearing, it was determined that a task force would be created to assess the roll out of PARCC and what assistance could be provided to Districts to ensure its compliance.

January 2015

  • New federal House Resolution 83, as approved by the federal House of Legislature, maintains the current level of financial support for IDEA Part B Grants to various States. The resolution does, however, significantly increase the funding for transitional programs for disabled students, including:
    • $1 million funding for the Client Assistant Program, an agency which helps people navigate the Vocational Rehabilitation system, as well as funding the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
    • $15 million to create a federalized Transitional Model System, “a coordinated system of services and supports to improve career preparation, postsecondary education, and competitive employment for youth with disabilities.”
    • $2.5 million to create a National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities; and
    • $1.4 million to create a Model Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.
  • The U.S. Senate recently published draft language for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/NCLB). Proposed changes to the law address revisions to the current requirements for states to provide standardized testing annually, freezing funding levels at the current FY15 rates, and eliminating the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) requirements for schools.
  • A new Illinois Public Act, PA 98-0917, was enacted, allowing for four years of working as a school support personnel (i.e. counselors) to count toward a principal endorsement for a Professional Educator License.

December 2014

  • A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Depression in the U.S Household Population, 2009-2012) finds that nearly 1 in 12 Americans over the age of 12 suffer from Depression.
  • A new Illinois House Bill, HB 3796, clarifies the definition of “voluminous request” in regards to the Freedom of Information Act, in an attempt to protect public bodies from citizens abusing the law to repeatedly request large amounts of information.
  • A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2809, was approved by both the Senate and the House and allows for a civil action to be brought by the Attorney General to stop the payment of pension benefits under any of the State’s pension systems to any employee who is convicted of a felony relating to, arising out of, or connected with that person’s service as an employee.

November 2014

  • An Arkansas federal court judge recently denied a school district’s motion to dismiss a Section 504 and Title IX claim brought by the parents of a disabled student who committed suicide. Judge James M. Moody, in the Estate of Barnwell by Barnwell v. Watson (64 IDELR 8), noted that the parents had merit in their civil lawsuit against the school district alleging the district’s culpability in their son’s suicide. Judge Moody found that the student, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, had sufficiently provided notice of bullying when he wrote a letter to a school counselor stating that he wanted to leave school because he couldn’t handle “being an outcast.” The judge also noted in the decision that the letter, in addition to the parents’ reports of bullying, should have prompted the District to launch an investigation of suspected disability harassment.
  • A proposed Senate Bill, SB 2711, would allow principals to apply recognized out-of-state time to count toward the minimum four years’ experience necessary for a Principal Endorsement.
  • The federal Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) recently published guidance in  Letter to Reilly (114 LRP 49672), indicating that, unlike IDEA matters, neither the school district nor the parents have the burden of proof in state board of education complaints.  OSEP noted, “Unlike due process hearings, State complaints are investigative in nature, rather than adversarial, and do not include the same procedural rights accorded to parties in an impartial due process hearing. Therefore, the Department believes that it is not consistent with the IDEA regulation for an SEA to treat a State complaint like a due process complaint and assign the burden of proof to either party.”

October 2014

  • A new blood test has been developed by Northwestern Medicine Scientists which can be used to diagnose Depression in adults. The test, which identifies nine specific RNA blood markers linked to Depression, can also identify which treatment courses will be most likely to succeed in individual patients.
  • Illinois will receive nearly $2 million dollars in federal grants to help schools better prepare for emergencies, as well as to improve methods of discipline and support for struggling students. Through the School Emergency Management Grant Program, ISBE will receive more than $1 million to help school districts develop and implement high-quality school emergency operations plans. In addition, the School Climate Transformation Grant Program will provide $800,000 to three school districts – Alton CUSD #11, Zion Elementary School District #6 and Sandoval CUSD #501 – will help reduce school violence by providing mental health services.
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights published guidance to school districts and educational personnel to help stop bullying of students with disabilities.

September 2014

  • The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused a request to hear a lawsuit which challenged California’s law prohibiting licensed psychologists and other mental health workers from providing “conversion therapy,” (a type of treatment aimed to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual) to minors. In its denial, the high court let stand a previous 9th Circuit appellate decision that found that California had demonstrated such therapy had no scientific merit and the law did not violate free-speech rights of mental health professionals and patients.
  • An Illinois impartial due process hearing officer recently found that a parents’ dispute of a re-evaluation and request for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for their Autistic child was considered “frivolous,” as the District’s assessment met all the procedural requirements and utilized a variety of assessment tools. The hearing officer in the matter noted that the parents’ demand for an IEE “clearly” met the frivolousness standard, as the evaluation conducted by the District included, “… [A] comprehensive evaluation, for which Parent provided no meaningful level of challenge…”

August 2014

  • Suburban school districts throughout the Northern Illinois area are fighting a newly proposed Illinois Senate Bill (SB 16) which would amend the school code to cut $480 million in aide from 474 “wealthy” suburban school districts and redistribute the funding to poorer school districts in central and southern Illinois. The bill, which already has been passed by the Senate, is currently on hold in a House committee where further discussions will be held prior to the fall session begins in November 2014.
  • A new Illinois law (P.A. 98-0639) will require all Illinois charter schools to comply with federal and state laws and regulations regarding the education of students with disabilities and the instruction of English language learners.
  • A new Illinois law (P.A. 98-0716) makes changes to the Employment of Teachers Article of the School Code by requiring new or existing employees to be subject to additional health examinations, as well as a provisions that school boards may require all employees (not just teachers) to “furnish evidence of continued professional growth.”

July 2014

  • A new Illinois law, Public Act 98-0705, requires the Illinois State Board of Education to adopt a definition of Dyslexia and establish an advisory group to develop training for educators on Dyslexia, including multi-sensory, systematic and sequential instruction in reading.

June 2014

  • A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2793, was sent to the Governor for signature which will require the Illinois State Board of Education to prepare a report and analyze disciplinary information from each school district in order to determine whether school districts are using “harsh disciplinary practices,” or exhibiting racial inequalities during disciplinary practices.
  • A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2989, was proposed which would allow psychologists who hold a Nationally Certified School Psychologist certificate to meet the definition of “school psychologist” as defined by the Illinois State Board of Education.

May 2014

  • A newly proposed Illinois House Bill, HB 5397, would require school districts to integrate fitness testing into the curriculum report on the information to the Illinois State Board of Education to “assess student fitness indicators.”
  • A new Illinois House Resolution, HR 543,  has been proposed to urge ISBE to delay the implementation of the new Common Core Standards, in order for the ISBE and General Assembly to create a viable plan for additional funding  to school districts which need “improvements and modernization” to comply with the new standards.
  • A recent New Mexico decision, Castillo v. Hobbs Mun. School Bd., denied relief to a former assistant principal who brought a suit against his school district employer for infringement of his “good name and reputation,” after the school district  released a copy of a tape-recorded sexual explicit phone conversation he had with this secretary. The court found that the school district took no unreasonable actions when it elected not to renew the administrator’s one-year contract, and instead offered him a position as a 1st grade teacher.

April 2014

  • In a recent 7th Circuit decision, CTL by Trebatoski v. Ashland Sch. Dist. (62 IDELR 252), the appellate court struck down a parents’ claim for disability discrimination when a school district provided a full time nurse to assist their child with diabetes, but not two additional trained aides as specified in her Section 504 plan. The court noted the implementation error did not amount to “discrimination” unless the deviation was so significant that it denies the child the benefit of a public education.
  • The Illinois House of Representatives recently passed through a new House Resolution which would require legislative hearings to be held regarding the administration and funding of high school sports and the Illinois High School Association, as well as the safety of high school athletes and viability of the ISBE to take over IHSA duties and functions.
  • A new Illinois Appellate Court Decision, Uptown People’s Law Center v. Department of Corrections (2014 Ill. App. 1st 130161), changes the definition of “prevailing party,” related to matters involving FOIA requests. While the appellate court  ultimately upheld the denial of attorneys fees to the law center, the 1st circuit found that a court order is not a prerequisite to a “prevailing party” status under FOIA, but that a party may obtain fees “regardless of the extent that he or she is successful in a court action.”

March 2014

  • A pending House Bill (HB 4524) would require parents to “identify and disclose” food allergies for all children, as well as mandate schools to create and implement an “individualized health care food allergy action plan” for all students with life-threatening food allergies.
  • The Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee approved a bill (HB 5537) that would allow the Illinois State Board of Education to remove elected school board members based on their governance and behavior. In addition, all school boards would be required to go through a national accrediting process. If the school district failed to secure accreditation, then ISBE would have power to remove the entire Board of Education and replace it with an “Independent Authority” that would operate the school district.

February 2014

  • A pending Illinois Senate Bill (SB 2682) would require all history teachers to include the history of organized labor and the collective bargaining process to their curriculum.
  • Newly proposed House Bill 3700 would require schools to implement screenings for Dyslexia and other reading disabilities for all students enrolled in kindergarten.
  • Pending Illinois HB5840 would amend the State Mandates Act to require the Illinois State Board of Education to collect and maintain information concerning state mandates for schools, determine the statewide implementation of state mandates for schools, review school district applications for reimbursement submitted under the  Act for payment of state mandates, and annually report to the Governor and General Assembly regarding the administration of the Act.

January 2014

  • A new House Bill (HB 4191) proposed in Illinois would require police liaisons at schools to provide students their Miranda rights, inform them that they have a right to have a parent or attorney present for questioning or prior to writing a statement, and that the presence of the police officer may result in an arrest, issuance of a summons, or use in school discipline procedures or criminal prosecutions, prior to official questioning of an incident. In addition, the presence of a police officer during questioning would require principal approval, and the parent/guardian of a student would be given notification and the opportunity to be present prior to the questioning or request for a statement of a student.
  • The Illinois Education Funding Advisory Committee has completed its final report to propose an education funding system which provides adequate, equitable, transparent and accountable distribution of funds to public schools.
  • The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its 2014 final rule, which included increased “work values” fees for mental health providers including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers.

December 2013

  • WCT unveils its new firm name of Whitted, Takiff + Hansen LLC.

November 2013

  • A new Illinois Appellate Court decision, Jones v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, upheld the termination of a Chicago Public Schools tenured teacher after she falsified residency information on her child’s own enrollment forms so they could be enrolled in particular selective-enrollment schools. The appellate court noted in the decision that under the Illinois School Code, the “immoral conduct” of a school employee is “automatically irremediable” without further evidence needed.
  • A new Illinois Public Act, PA 98-0383, provides for “stay-put placement” of a student in their current setting when a school district and parent voluntarily agree to pursue mediation through the Illinois State Board of Education. If an agreement is not reached during mediation, then a parent has 10 days in which to file for due process in order to continue the “stay-put” placement and services.  In addition, the act requires school districts to provide a formal, written response to all complaints filed against it through the ISBE.

October 2013

  • The House Elementary and Secondary Committee approved Senate Bill 1689, which requires Regional Offices of Education (ROE) to shrink from 44 to 35 total regions by January 2014, based on the decreased population counted within the most recent census information. If the ROEs could not complete the consolidation independently, the Illinois State Board of Education would do so.
  • The United States Supreme Court will not hear an Alabama school district’s argument that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not authorize independent educational evaluations. Consequently, the federal regulation allowing independent educational evaluations remains valid.
  • Revisions to the Illinois rules and regulations (23 Ill. Admin. Code 226.160) went into effect which added a “training or assessment option” for school nurses to become qualified to make educational recommendations regarding accommodations, modifications, and/or interventions based on the results of a student’s medical review.

September 2013

  • The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (“IEMA”) received a $25 million federal grant for local schools to upgrade school safety features. The monies will be distributed on a competitive grant basis, and must be utilized for upgraded features, including notification and warning systems, locking devices and entry systems, land-mobile radios and base systems, metal detectors, security sensors, and camera-based security systems.
  • A new Illinois law, Public Act 98-0471 (effective January 1, 2014) requires junior high school and high school administrators, teachers and counselors to receive in-service training on mental illness.

August 2013

  • A recent federal court decision in Illinois, Board of Educ. of Evanston-Skokie Cmty. Consol. Sch. Dist. 65 v. Risen (61 IDELR 130), determined that a school district’s “inclusion” policy aided in pre-determination of placement for a student with Learning Disabilities, and affirmed the requirement for school districts to offer a full continuum of placements, including private therapeutic day schools, to meet a child’s unique needs.
  • A new law in Illinois, Public Act 98-0129 (effective January 12, 2014), requires school districts to publish rules and/or policies regarding student use of social networking websites, including the circumstances in which the District might request or require the student to provide a password or other account information.
  • A new House Bill 2322 allows school social work services to be implemented by those with a Professional Educator License with an endorsement in social work. It also allows the implementation of social and emotional educational programs as well as bullying intervention programs to be included in the definition of “school social work services.”

July 2013


June 2013

  • Brooke Whitted has been elected to a second year as Vice Chair of the Illinois Community and Residential Services Authority (CRSA€). The CRSA, which if formerly called the “Residential Services Authority,” was created in 1985 based on recommendations of the School Problems Commission. At that time, special education was set as a federal priority and many state agencies in Illinois were changing their policies to comply with the federal law. In addition, the case law was in the beginning of its now thirty years of development and there were many aspects of special education law, including provisions involving residential placement, to be developed. One of the things that was occurring and was the subject of litigation was the finger pointing among state agencies as to who would pay for particularly complex childrens’ services. The CRSA was created in part as a result of the litigation that was occurring then, as well as the recommendations of the Commission.
  • The CRSA is a “diamond in the rough” in state government. While it is embedded as a line item in the budget of the State Board of Education, it is a separate agency with a separate board and a separate allocation from the legislature. This allocation is a small one for the work that the staff of the CRSA does every single year to prevent emotionally disturbed children from falling between the cracks of the very complex and fragmented Illinois child services delivery system. The CRSA performs a very valuable and pivotal service with the very most severely disabled emotionally disturbed children, and is free of charge to Illinois families.

May 2013

  • The Illinois legislature has proposed HB 2428, which would create the Task Force on Civic Education, which would: 1) Analyze the current state of civic education in Illinois, 2) Analyze current civic education laws in other jurisdictions, 3) Identify best practices in civic education, 4) Make recommendations to the General Assembly focused on substantially increasing civic literacy, and 5) Make funding recommendations regarding the implementation of said best practices. Members for the task force shall include members from the House of Representatives and Senate, various teachers, a school board representative, a member of the media, members from non-profit civic sector organizations, a representative from higher education, and a school administrator (superintendent or principal). A final report from the task force is due by May 31, 2014.
  • The Illinois Senate has proposed a bill, SB 1931, which would create the School Security and Standards Task Force, which would study the security of schools, make recommendations, and draft standards for use by schools to make them more secure and to provide a safer learning environment for children in Illinois.
  • A new Illinois House Bill, HB 2590, would grant employers the right to seek an order of protection against individuals to prohibit further violence or threats of violence by a person if: a) The employee has suffered unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence from the person, and b) The unlawful violence has been carried out at the employer’s place of work or the credible threat of violence can reasonably be constructed to be carried out at the employee’s place of work.

April 2013

  • Proposed HB 1288 would require ISBE to adopt procedures that allow for parents and students to make written complaints – not just due process hearing requests – with the ISBE alleging that a school district has violated the rights of one or more children with disabilities.
  • HB 2213 was proposed, which would set up a special set of rights, support services, and due process procedures for students who are either: a) parents, b) expectant parents, or c) the victims of domestic or sexual violence. The bill mandates that special privileges must be given to such students regarding school placement, student transfers, expulsions and suspension, home instruction, and additional support services.
  • HB 2691 creates the criminal felony offense of “theft of public funds,” which defines an offense as when a person embezzles, steals, purloins, obtains by fraud or knowingly converts to his or her use money or “things of value” of any unit of local government or school district. Charges for amounts up to $300 would be a Class 4 felony, a Class 2 felony for amounts between $300 and $10,000, a Class 1 felony for amounts between 10,000 and 100,000, and a Class X felony for amounts exceeding $100,000 in value.
  • The Illinois House recently proposed HB 1047, which would allow for private and public employers to ask employees for their username and password of any Internet account they access through the employer’s Internet system.

March 2013

  • A new House Bill, HB 1446, would require for special education services to be provided in accordance with a child’s IEP within 10 school attendance days, (instead of 10 calendar days) after notice is provided to parents.
  • A newly-proposed HB 2944 would require public school districts to administer ISAT examinations to students from non-public schools within its boundaries.
  • Proposed HB 2846 creates the Best Candidate for the Job Act, which would mandate both private and public employers (including local school districts) to “properly consider” formerly convicted criminals when filling open positions.

February 2013

  • Newly proposed House Bill 64 would create the “Privacy in the School Setting Act,” prohibiting Illinois school personnel from requesting or requiring a student to provide a password for access to the student’s social networking account.
  • A newly-proposed Senate Bill (SB 1307) would lower Illinois’ current compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 5.

January 2013


December 2012

  • The American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees has approved the final diagnostic criteria for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5″). The final publication will be available in the spring of 2013.”
  • A new House Bill (HB 76) introduced would create the “School Choice Act,” in Illinois, allowing for publically funded vouchers to be used for tuition at non-public schools.

November 2012

  • New Public Act 97-0607 creates a new educator licensure system in Illinois. Instead of current the specified certificates, all educators, including related service personnel, teachers and administrators, would transfer over to one of three licenses: 1) Professional Educator License, 2) Educator License with Stipulations, or 3) Substitute License. In addition, a new Educator Licensure Information System (“ELIS”) will replace the current Educator Certification System (“ECS”) maintained by the state board, new standardized college preparation programs and certification testing will be developed and an educator code of ethics will be created.
  • The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Carr v. Koch (2012 IL 113414) that two Illinois tax payers did not meet the criteria for establishing “standing” to bring a lawsuit against Christopher Koch, Illinois’ State Superintendent of Education, for establishing an education funding system that violated the equal-protection cause.

October 2012

  • New regulations in Illinois now require all teachers to receive passing grades on the computer-based ILTS Test of Academic Proficiency, which has replaced the Basic Skills test, and involves questions related to reading comprehension, language arts, mathematics and writing.
  • A new Illinois Public Act (PA-1037) created the Eradicate Domestic Violence Task Force, which is ushered to develop a statewide course for high school students to prevent interpersonal, adolescent violence and is based on the Step Back Think Program. The Task Force will at least 20 representatives, including members from a statewide teaching organization, a school principal, a school board member, a Department of Human Services employee, a law enforcement official, a domestic violence organization employee, and school business officials.
  • Public Act 97-1102, recently signed by Governor Quinn, established the Enhance Physical Education Task Force, charged with recommending enhanced physical education programs that can be integrated with a broader wellness strategy and health curriculum, developing metrics to assess the impact of enhanced physical education, promoting training and professional development for teachers, and identifying resources to support enhanced physical education.

September 2012

  • A new law in Illinois (PA 97-0975) changes the definition of “chronic truant” in the Juvenile Court Act from being a child absent for 10% of the school year to 5% of the school year, in line with the definition utilized in the School Code.
  • The 7th Circuit Appellate Court affirmed a District Court’s decision to dismiss a liability case against a school district filed by the parent of an 8-year-old boy who was involved in an inappropriate relationship with his female teacher. In N.R. Doe v. St. Francis School District, #12-1039, the appellate court found that the district staff, including the principal and the superintendent, “acted promptly” after receiving notice of the allegations against the teacher, which included sexual text messaging, invitations to her apartment, and sexual contact (kissing and petting). The district was ultimately not liable for “negligent infliction of emotional distress,” after the superintendent “did everything she could do given the information available.”
  • A new opinion from the 7th Circuit, Gschwind v. Heiden, #12-1755, allows a freedom of speech civil rights complaint involving a teacher against his school district to move forward despite the District court’s dismissal of the case. The case involved a teacher who had been threatened on two different occasions by the same student. After receiving the threats, the teacher reported the incidents to the school’s police liaison, assistant principal and principal. While the police liaison encouraged the teacher to file a criminal complaint regarding the matter, the assistant principal and principal both refused to support the criminal investigation, for fear of the student’s parents filing a retaliation lawsuit against the school. The teacher decided to move forward with the criminal complaint, and the very next day he received a “unsatisfactory” evaluation (his first) from the assistant principal and was later threatened with termination if he refused to resign his teaching position. The civil rights suit was dismissed (via the School District’s granted Summary Judgment Motion) by the District court, however, because it agreed with the school district that the complaint “did not involve a matter of public concern,” and therefore was not protected by the First Amendment. The Illinois Supreme court disagreed, arguing that it was clear the teacher had filed the complaint “in part to help ensure the smooth and safe operation of the school and everyone inside and, more importantly to a free-speech claim, to bring to the public light the face that such an incident had occurred.” The case has been remanded back to the District court.

August 2012

  • A new 20-year study from UC Berkeley funded by the National Institute of Mental Health finds that more than 20% of girls diagnosed with specific types of ADHD reported at least one suicide attempt in their lifetime, and more than 50% of the girls reported self-injurious behaviors.
  • A recent Illinois Appellate court decision, In re: Marquita M., Case No. 4-11-0011, rules that schools can question and elicit formal statements and/or confessions from students regarding alleged crimes without first reading their Miranda Rights to them. The judge indicated that since the child was not in custody (being physically restrained, subjected to a long line of questioning, intimidated by the police liaison officer or taken to the police station) at the time of the statements were made, Miranda Rights were not required.
  • A new Senate Bill 638 extends timelines (from 9/1/12 to 9/1/13) for persons to be accepted into an Alternative Teacher Certification program, and allows teaching to be performed in charter schools as well as public schools.

July 2012

  • Illinois lawmakers expanded the definition of the term “neglected child” to include children who are subjected to an environment which creates “the likelihood of harm,” or who “blatant[ly] disregard” caretaker responsibilities. (PA 97-0803)
  • The new “Military Family Licensing Act” (PA 97-0710) was signed into law by Governor Quinn which allows for temporary expedited professional and educational licenses for active duty members of the military and their spouses after relocation to Illinois for military service.

June 2012

  • The U.S. Department of Education released its new publication, “Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document”describing 15 principles to consider when developing or revising policies and procedures on the use of restraint and seclusions in schools.
  • A new case out of the Utah Supreme Court found that school officials could not claim government immunity when defending themselves in a case where a student was accidentally shot and killed during a musical production at the school. Staff members allowed a real gun (loaded with blanks) to be used in the play, with the stipulation that only adults could handle the weapon. Despite this rule, students who were unsupervised handled the gun, and a blank was fired near a student’s head resulting in his death. The Utah case has no precedence in Illinois, however Utah’s immunity statute is similar to Illinois’ in language, and as such might be utilized in future Illinois litigation.
  • The ISBE approved an amendment to the medical review regulations requiring schools to employ certificated school nurses (after July 1, 2013) to make recommendations regarding educational interventions, accommodations, or modifications for students with IEPs and 504 Plans.

May 2012

  • A newly proposed Illinois Senate bill (SB 2849) would expand the definition for a “neglected child” to include any child who is subjected to an environment injurious to his or her health and welfare.
  • A pending Illinois House Joint Resolution (HJR 79) would create the Area Career and Technical Education and Vocational Centers Task Force, in an effort to study whether the state should fund area career/vocational centers and career and technical education programs.

April 2012

  • The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the President’s budget proposal for FY 2013 will include a plan to freeze funding for special education. In FY 2012, the Federal government only covered 16.3% of the national average per pupil expenditure, far less than the 40% funding promise made to states through the IDEA.
  • A new Senate Bill (SB 3415) would require all school officials (of private and public schools) including teachers, guidance counselors, and support staff to immediately notify the office of the principal if a student commits certain specified offenses, including (but not limited to): an assault, a battery, a criminal sexual assault or abuse (on school grounds or school-owned or leased property, including school buses), and incidents involving “great bodily harm.”

March 2012

  • Two new Federal bills, the Student Success Act (HR 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (HR 3990) recently have been introduced to the House of Representatives, which would revise the No Child Left Behind Act, allowing more flexibility for states to design, develop and implement their own educational strategies for improving education in the public schools. The Acts would also eliminate the Annual Yearly Progress (“AYP”) requirement, as well as the “highly qualified teacher” definition, allowing states to develop their own teacher evaluation system. In addition, it would allow individual states to determine which schools were “failing” and how they should be remediated.
  • A newly proposed Illinois House bill (HB 4495) mandates that school guidance counselors, teachers, school social workers, and other school personnel who work with students in grades 7 through 12 to be trained in identifying the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior (instead of just suicidal behavior).

February 2012

  • A new federal House Resolution (H.R. 2218) was recently passed onto the Senate regarding charter schools. Titled “Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act,” the resolution calls for states to expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students, focusing on students with disabilities, limited English proficiency and other “traditionally under-served students.” The resolution also establishes a $300 million competitive grant program for states, charter school boards and governors to help fund the initiative.
  • The ISBE recently amended its rules and regulations regarding the Illinois School Students Records Act. The revisions include additional definitions of what comprises a student’s record, adding in “accident reports,” video or electronic records maintained by law enforcement professionals working in the school, electronic recordings from school buses, and video/electronic recordings related to “special education placement hearings and appeals.”
  • The Department of Defense issued revised regulations which would allow licensed professional counselors (LCPCs) to practice independently as mental health counselors within TRICARE, the government insurance program offered to active duty service members, retirees and their families. Previously, the regulations mandated that LCPCs be supervised and referred by monitoring physicians. Comments to the regulations are being heard until February 27, 2012, after which they will be codified.

January 2012

  • WTH associate attorney, Shermin S. Ali-Andani, has been appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve on the Illinois Muslim American Advisory Council’s (“MAAC”) Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee. The group will provide strategic direction to better integrate Muslim Americans in State policies and programs in areas including education, public safety, jobs, veteran’s affairs, healthcare, and human services. For more information about the MAAC, please visit its website at http://www2.illinois.gov/gov/MAAC/Pages/default.aspx.

December 2011

  • New regulation amendments are proposed regarding mandating reporting in Illinois, adding physician assistants, LPCPs, field personnel from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services, LPCs, acupuncturists, animal control officers, Illinois Department of Agriculture animal health and welfare investigators, members of any district school board (including the Chicago Board of Education) and members of the governing body of any private school to the list of professionals mandated to report known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to DCFS.
  • The ISBE issued formal guidance regarding the Performance Evaluation Reform Act and Senate Bill 7, the recently created Public Acts bills which revise the way performance evaluations of all teachers and principals in Illinois are conducted. The Act created the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, comprised of teachers, principals, superintendents and “other interested stakeholders” to advise ISBE on the development and implementation of improved performance evaluation systems and supports. Final regulations for the Reform Act are currently awaiting public comment, however ISBE has developed the before-mentioned non-regulatory guidance regarding implementation of the Act until formal regulations are passed into law.

November 2011

  • A recent HB 605 was approved by the Senate and sent to the Governor for signature, making changes to the reporting requirements for school district report cards. The new bill requires districts to provide additional information, including curriculum and specific special education program information, student outcomes and progress and attendance information for students, teachers and administrators.

October 2011

  • A recent Family Policy Compliance Office ruling (110 LRP 51087) allows districts to limit access to their 18-year-old daughter’s records, despite having a Power of Attorney, as FERPA does not require a district to provide access to anyone other than the eligible student.
  • The Department of Children and Family Services adopted emergency amendments to its regulations regarding the administration of psychotropic medications for children under its custody (89 Ill. Admin. Code 325). The new regulations: 1) Requires DCFS and private agency caseworkers and investigators to identify potential medical and mental health issues, 2) Requires DCFS to publish its psychotropic medication administration guidelines and list of medications on its website, and 3) Designates an Oversight Treatment Team to review decisions to administer psychotropic medications.
  • Proposed Illinois SB 512 would make pension changes that would affect employees who currently participate in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). Under the proposal, TRS-participating employees would have to select one of three pension plan options: 1) Remain in the plan with the current TRS benefits but pay a higher contribution rate, 2) Change to the “Tier II” plan and pay a lower contribution rate, or 3) Participate in a 401(k) type plan.

September 2011

  • A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that levels of pesticides commonly used in food and around the home are increasing a child’s risk of developing ADHD. In a study of more than 1100 children, researchers found that children with substantially higher levels of pesticides in their systems were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
  • A new revision to Illinois’ FOIA law (PA 97-0579) defines a “recurrent requester” as a person who, in the 12 months immediately preceding the request, has submitted to the same public body (i) a minimum of 50 requests for records, (ii) a minimum of 15 requests for records within a 30-day period, or (iii) a minimum of seven requests for records within a seven-day period.
  • Six new mental health bills signed by Governor Quinn last month establishes mental health parity among health insurance policies, ensuring that all insurance companies provide the same coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders that they provide for all other conditions. HB 1530 (PA 97-0437) now requires the following:
    1. The addition of substance use disorders to the list of mental illnesses covered by the law,
    2. Facilities to define “medical necessity” in accordance with criteria established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine,
    3. Insurers to cover treatment for substance abuse disorders in a residential facility,
    4. Prohibits non-quantitative treatment limitations that are not used on a comparable basis for medical surgical benefits,
    5. The elimination of “lifetime limits” on mental health coverage,
    6. The elimination of “annual limits” on mental health coverage, and
    7. The elimination of a differentiated deductible for mental health services.

August 2011

  • A new Illinois law, PA 97-0088, requires school districts to provide at least 60 minutes of daily reading opportunities for kindergarten through third grade students whose reading level is at least one year lower than their grade level.
  • The Illinois Human Rights Act amended its definition of “disability” to include any mental, psychological or developmental disability, including autism spectrum disorders.
  • A new Public Act 97-0340 (effective January 1, 2012) gives school districts the authority to suspend or expel students if: 1) The student made a threat on the Internet against an employee, student or school-related personnel, 2) The website through which the threat was made was accessible to the school at the time of the threat, and 3) The threat could be “reasonably” interpreted as threatening to the safety and security of the individual because of their status as an employee or student of the school.
  • A new Illinois law (PA 97-0504, effective January 1, 2012) requires training for school board members and other elected officials on the Open Meetings Act.
  • Public Act 97-0294 was also passed, amending the Stalking No Contact Order to provide that school districts can be court ordered to make a change of educational placement or program for the respondent.
  • Governor Quinn has, by veto power, unilaterally eliminated the line item in the state budget which pays the salaries of Regional Superintendents of Schools (including the Assistant Superintendents). Discussions between the governor’s office, ISBE and the Regional Offices of Education have been fruitless, and will most likely continue through the October veto session.

July 2011

  • The 9th Circuit rules in favor of the school district in Forest Grove v. T.A., denying the family of a child with EDs reimbursement for their child’s placement at a therapeutic residential facility, because the parents stated on the student’s application to the private school that his enrollment at the RTC was “based on his behavioral and drug problems,” and not solely for educational purposes.
  • Illinois’ Department of Public Health is proposing a “Psychiatry Incentive Program Code,” which would establish loans, grants and loan forgiveness aimed at child and adolescent psychiatrists in training who “establish and maintain psychiatric practices in underserved Illinois areas.” For more details on the proposed regulations, see the Illinois register.

June 2011

  • Governor Quinn signed into law education reform bill SB 7. (See April 2011 entry below for more detailed information.)

May 2011

  • The Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2012 Illinois education budgets, restoring several million dollars worth of programming (including mentoring, RtI and early intervention programming) which had been slashed by the House of Representatives.
  • The U.S. Department of Education announced that it plans to offer school districts federal guidance regarding restrain and seclusion prior to the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.
  • The Illinois House Personnel and Pensions Committee has approved SB 512, a bill overhauling the state’s current pension systems, including the Teachers’ Retirement System.

April 2011

  • The Illinois Senate unanimously approved SB 630/7, an education reform bill that impacts teacher tenure, hiring and layoffs, as well as strike procedures and school board training. For detailed information, please see www.iasb.com/govrel/sb7analysis.pdf for more details regarding the bill.

March 2011

  • U.S. House Representative Jackie Speier (D. CA) plans to introduce a bill in the U.S. Congress which would require schools to report incidents of bullying against children with special education disabilities to the federal government, and would mandate that any federal money utilized to promote anti-bullying programs focus on special education populations.
  • A new Northern District of Illinois federal court opinion, Dominique L. v BOE of the City of Chicago, held that parents may sue a school district under Section 1983 to compel the district’s compliance with an administrative due process decision.
  • A new HB 3489 would require the completion of a 15-hour substitute authorization program (approved by the ISBE) before the issuance of a substitute teacher’s certificate.

February 2011

  • Changes to Illinois’ DCFS statutes amends the length of time that DCFS maintain “unfounded” reports. Please see our memo, Maintaining Unfounded DCFS Reports, for more details.
  • The Illinois legislature adjourned without further consideration of possible education reform legislation, including making significant changes in teacher dismissal, tenure and strike laws. Discussions will continue in anticipation of having legislation ready for a vote later this spring.
  • Currently pending HB 189 would place limitations on the percentage of students within general education classrooms who have IEPs (excluding those students only receiving speech-language services).

January 2011

  • A pending house bill, HB1083, would provide that all Illinois school boards establish an “IEP appeals” board, to which parents could appeal denials for additional services for their children prior to filing for due process.
  • A pending house bill, HB 140, would require the ISBE to establish a standardized student expulsion policy that would apply to all school districts within the state.
  • New regulations regarding Speech Language Pathology licenses require additional technical instruction, increased hours of supervised clinical experience, and a requirement that the higher education program be accredited or approved by the Council on Academic Accreditations in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

December 2010

  • The Illinois Appellate Court, in K.D. by Nichelle D. and Bradley D. v. Villa Grove Community Unit School District No. 302 Bd. of Educ., upheld a lower court’s decision that allowed a 6-year-old boy with Autism to bring a service dog into the school, despite the school district’s argument that the dog failed to “provide educational benefit.”
  • The Illinois General Assembly considered a number of controversial education reform measures, including the ISBE’s ability to revoke a teacher or principal’s certificate if they received three unsatisfactory performance evaluations during a 10-year period, requiring a “standard survey” of teachers and students in order to assess the learning conditions of individual schools, and allowing for teachers to be dismissed (RIF) or recalled based on performance, not seniority.
  • Newly proposed Illinois regulations would require students attempting to earn a Professional Counselor or Clinical Professional Counselor license to hold a master’s or doctoral degree in the field of counseling, rehabilitation counseling, psychology or a similar degree.

November 2010

  • New Illinois regulations go into effect which impact homebound services for special education students in Illinois. See highlighted client alert for more details.
  • New Illinois special education regulations go into effect which adopt a “Code of Ethics for Illinois Educators” (23 Ill. Admin. Code 22). The code specifies five core principles that educators must meet when addressing the educational needs of each student. These ethics apply to teachers of all public schools, as well as charter schools and institutions of higher education.

October 2010

  • The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the mandatory “Brief Period of Silence” statute created in 2007. The appellate court indicated that it did not find the statute unconstitutional because it did not “advance or inhibit religion,” and because the legislature intended for the brief period of silence to merely “calm school children before the start of their day.” The 7th Circuit’s decision can be found at http://legalclips.nsba.org/?p=2640.
  • 18 school districts within Illinois will be sharing $270 million in state capital funding for construction and renovation projects as part of Gov. Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! program. The funding will help pay for additions and/or renovations to existing schools (including those damaged by natural disasters), as well as the construction of new buildings. To see whether your district will be receiving any of this money, go to the Illinois Government News Network.
  • A federal court judge put on hold a previous order for Chicago Public Schools to retroactively change its teacher layoff process with the Chicago Teachers Union. The ruling comes as the latest in an ongoing battle between the district and the teacher’s union, which alleges that when CPS laid off hundreds of teachers over the summer due to budgetary constraints, district administrators did not abide by seniority and instead relied on other factors, such as unsatisfactory evaluation ratings and overstaffing projections, to make its decision. The court had previously ordered for CPS to reinstate the terminated teachers and provide back pay, however since CPS is appealing the ruling, a judge agreed to stay the order until the appeal is decided.

September 2010

  • Illinois received a $146.6 million grant from the federal School Improvement Grants program to help turn around its persistently lowest achieving schools. School districts throughout Illinois will compete for their share of the funds and will qualify if they have any Tier III schools (schools performing in the lowest 20% in the state) within their boundaries. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Field trials for newly proposed diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 began this month. A total of 33 field trials are scheduled throughout the country, with 11 of the trials being conducted in large, academic medical settings and 22 of the trials occurring in smaller individual practices. Physicians registered with the AMA Masterfile will be randomly selected for the trials in October and November of 2010. The trials are scheduled to run through March of 2011, with a second phase of trials occurring from August to December 2011. A target print date for the updated DSM-5 is set for sometime in 2013.

August 2010

  • WTH partner Brooke R. Whitted was appointed to the newly-created Illinois School Bullying Prevention Task Force. The Task Force was created by PA 96-0952 to explore the causes and consequences of bullying in schools, identify practices which reduce incidents of bullying, highlight training and technical assistance to school districts to effectively address bullying, and to evaluate the effectiveness of schools’ current anti-bullying policies.

July 2010

  • A Senate Bill was passed (PA 96-1403) which allows for schools to use various sources of school funding for the purchase of electronic textbooks.
  • A bill was signed into law (PA 96-1264) that provides for reimbursement to school districts for transporting children enrolled in its early childhood programs.
  • HB 6065, which will be signed by the governor when the general assembly returns in November 2010, requires all school personnel to be trained in on diabetes care, including how to identify when a student with diabetes needs immediate or emergency medical attention.

June 2010

  • The Illinois State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt regulations requiring all public preschools in the state to identify and provide bilingual education for children who have limited proficiency in English.
  • Public Act 96-0903 was signed into law, establishing new requirements for principal certification, including more stringent standards for principal preparation programs.

May 2010

  • HB 6065, now approved by both the senate and house and pending the Governor’s signature, requires parents of children with diabetes to submit a diabetes care plan for those students who seek assistance with diabetes care in the school setting. The bill also provides that a “delegated care aide” would perform the activities/tasks necessitated by those plans.
  • A new House Bill, HB 6079, would allow two contiguous school districts to establish cooperative elementary and high schools.
  • A new House Bill, HB 4672 (approved by both the Senate and the House, and pending Governor signature) requires for school social workers to attend the same in-service workshops as teachers regarding the identification of the warnings signs for suicidal behavior in teenagers.

April 2010

  • A proposed Senate Bill, SB 3513, provides that if a minor is a victim of a violent offense (e.g. aggravated battery, battery, attempted murder, etc.), the identify of the victim may be disclosed to school officials for the purpose of “preventing foreseeable future violence involving minors.” The disclosure would be pursuant to an agreement established between the school district and local law enforcement, and subject to approval by a juvenile court judge.
  • A newly proposed House Bill, HB 5234, would apply sexual harassment provisions from the Illinois Human Rights Act to elementary and secondary schools. If passed, the bill would require school district administrators to take appropriate disciplinary action against elementary and middle school employees engaging in sexual harassment.
  • A new House Bill, HB 5154, amends the Personnel Record Review Act to prohibit the disclosure of performance evaluations under the Freedom of Information Act. This bill would apply to all school district personnel, including teachers, administrators and superintendents.

March 2010

  • A new Senate Bill, SB 3266, would add strict new requirements regarding school districts’ bullying policy. The bill provides for a new definition of bullying, a requirement for school districts to adopt a comprehensive policy on bullying (including procedures for reporting, investigations of incidents, and timelines the district must follow in resolving complaints of bullying), and a requirement that school districts maintain data and submit it to the ISBE regarding bullying complaints.
  • A new House Bill, HB 4886, was sent to the House for consideration, providing that a district could implement an alternative school calendar, instituting a 4-day school week. The proposed calendar would require approval by the Illinois State Board of Education and the local regional superintendent of school.
  • A new Senate Bill, SB 1946, changes the provisions of the state pension system for new teacher hires. The bill would: calculate the final average salary for pension purposes using the highest 8 of 10 consecutive years (instead of 4 of the last 10 years), increase the age for full pension benefits to 67 years old, allow for retirement at 62 with lower retirement annuity, limit the annual average salary for pensionable purposes at $106,800, reduce the survivor annuity in certain circumstances and reduce the cost of living adjustment.

February 2010

  • A British medical journal, the Lancet, formally retracted a 1998 article linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to Autism. In the retraction, the Lancet stated “We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between (the) vaccine and autism, as the data were insufficient. However the possibility of such a link was raised, and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent.”
  • A new House Bill, HB 4672, is introduced requiring school principals to attend in-service workshops regarding the warning signs of suicidal behaviors in teenagers and suicide prevention.
  • A new house bill introduced, HB 5132, would require DCFS to investigate reports of abuse or neglect of a student with disabilities as it would reports of abuse or neglect of a child. The definition of “student with disabilities” includes a public school student between the ages of 18-21 who is identified as having multiple disabilities and who has an IEP.

January 2010

  • Illinois’ new FOIA law goes into effect, requiring school boards to designate one or more officials/employees to act as formal Freedom of Information Officers. Other changes to the law include shortening the response time from 7 business days to 5 business days, prohibiting public bodies from charging the requester for the first 50 pages, requiring a detailed factual basis for the denial of any request, removing the exemption of personnel records and personal employee information from the act, and imposing mandatory attorneys fees and fines to any public body which the court determines willfully and intentionally failed to comply with a FOIA.
  • The governor signed into law a new Public Act (PA 96-0861, effective January 15, 2010) which will require that teacher and principal evaluations use student growth as part of the evaluation criteria.

December 2009

  • A new federal law, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (HR 4247), was introduced in congress to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion on students in schools. The law would ban the use of mechanical restraints, prohibit restraints which restrict breathing, and would ban staff members from denying students water, food, clothing or access to bathrooms to control behavior.
  • Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the creation of a National Board of Certification for Principals, a new credentialing program focused on the advanced development of school leaders which will set national, rigorous standards and assessments for school principals. The U.S. Department of Education will provide $1 million in funding for the initiative, along with other agencies including the Chicago Public Education Fund.

November 2009

  • The Illinois Association of School Boards announced during its annual conference that it intends to introduce legislation in Illinois forbidding public school employees from striking. The board proposes, instead, using alternatives to striking, including mediation and binding arbitration.
  • Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan held a Cyber Safety Summit, which included law enforcement officials, parents and school officials, to discuss the dangers of cyber bullying. The attorney general’s office also has set up a website – www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/cyberbullying/index.html – to provide additional resources regarding cyberbullying.

October 2009

  • President Obama signed an updated hate crimes bill into law on October 28, 2009, making it a federal offense to commit a crime against a person based on their disability.
  • Two recent new Public Acts (96-434 and PA 96-266) requires school districts to disclose detailed information regarding salaries and other compensation for all employees of a school district, including administrators. The information, which must be presented publically at a regularly scheduled school board meeting and accessible via the district’s website, must include information related to base salary, pension contributions, retirement increases, costs of health and life insurance, paid sick and vacation days, annuities and any other form of paid compensation paid to school personnel. It will also include information related to all collective bargaining agreements entered into with the district.
  • A recent Public Act, 96-788, the Illinois Premise Alert Program Act, encourages public safety officers to be further educated on how to respond to people with disabilities when responding to emergency situations. The act also allows for families of disabled individuals to register with their local police department information which would be helpful in an emergency situation, including diagnoses, current medications, risks of certain behaviors and other medical or diagnostic information they wish to share.

September 2009

  • A new Public Act , 96-0657, provides that a parent, independent educational evaluator, or other qualified, professional retained by the parent or child must be afforded reasonable access to the school and school personnel in order to evaluate the child and review the child’s current and/or proposed educational program, placement or services.
  • Public Act 96-0788, the Illinois Premise Alert Program (PAP), was signed by the governor which makes the state responsible for providing “guidance and direction” to all Illinois public safety workers (including firefighters, police officers and and other emergency response personnel) in responding to and assisting people with disabilities.

August 2009

  • Public Act 96-0542 is signed by Governor Pat Quinn, effective January 1, 2010, which makes comprehensive changes to the FOIA law (see entry for May of 2009 for more information).

July 2009

  • The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held in J.D. v Kanawha County Board of Education that parents of special education students were “prevailing parties” and entitled to attorneys’ fees even though the legal relief obtained as a result of the due process hearing was less favorable than the settlement offered by the school district during mediation.
  • A search for over-the-counter drugs in a student’s undergarments was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision in Safford Unified School District No. 1 v Redding. The Court stated that after searching the student’s book bag and pockets and finding nothing there was no reasonable suspicion that the drugs would be found in the student’s underwear making the search unconstitutional. The Court held that the search was excessively intrusive in light of the age (the child was 11) and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction. The case was sent back to the appellate court to decide if the school district could be liable for the violation.
  • Public Act 96-0062, effective July 23, 2009, requires for all superintendents who have not previously served as a school district superintendent in the state of Illinois participate in a two-year mentoring program established by the ISBE.

June 2009

  • The U.S. Supreme Court, in its ruling in Forest Grove v T.A., maintained its previous position that disabled children, even if they had never before attended school within the public sector, continue to retain the right to retroactive reimbursement for private school placements due to their intensive special education needs.

May 2009

  • WTH recently prevailed in an administrative due process hearing against the Chicago Public School District in a case which involved an 8th grade student diagnosed with Klinefelter’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which impairs language abilities, seeking placement at a private day school for children with Learning Disabilities. See the decision, G.S. v Chicago Public School District No. 299.
  • Discussions continue regarding pending Senate Bill 189, in which Attorney General Lisa Madigan has proposed legislation to tighten the current language of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) language. Some major proposed changes to the current FOIA law include: requirement for all settlement agreements entered into by public bodies to be considered public record, changing the compliance deadline from 7 to 5 business days, a requirement that each public body designate an employee as a “Freedom of Information Officer,”and includes proper disclosure of arrest reports and criminal history records for employees of public bodies.
  • A pending Senate Bill 1292 seeks to amend the Illinois Pension Code to establish a two-tier pension system for members of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS.) The new law would include different provisions for teachers hired after August 1, 2009, including provisions concerning creditable service, alternative forms of retirement annuities, annual increases, employee contributions, refunds and re-entry after retirement.

April 2009

  • A pending Illinois House bill, HB 628, was sent to the Senate for approval which would require school districts to provide access to parents of special education students, independent educational evaluators and/or experts to observe students in the school setting. Currently, school districts can provide access at their discretion to these individuals.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education finally issued guidance regarding two new public acts, PA 95-0844 and PA 95-0938, which affect the residency statutes in Illinois. Please see our memo, Implementation of PA 95-0844 and PA 95-0938, for details.
  • Senate Bill 1391 was sent to the House for approval requiring the ISBE to adopt rules to provide standards for the certification of marital and family therapists employed by school boards.

March 2009

  • Two new bills, SB 1885 and HB 640, were moved from committee levels to the houses for approval, which would allow school districts to suspend or expel students who have currently pending juvenile or criminal proceedings alleging the commission of a felony.
  • HB 2270, currently awaiting Senate approval, would require school districts to annually submit to the ISBE an itemized salary compensation report for every certified employee in the district, including teachers, administrators, and the district’s superintendent.

February 2009

  • A pending Illinois House bill, HB 272, would require students to submit to random drug testing for performance-enhancing substances prior to being allowed to participate in an athletic competition sponsored or sanctioned by the IHSA.
  • The Illinois State Board has issued a guidance document regarding class sizes for the 2009 – 2010 school year.
  • A currently pending Illinois House Bill, HB 326, provides that information disclosed by a student over the age of 12 (or the parents of a student) during a session with a school counselor or school counselor intern, would remain confidential and would not become part of the student’s school record without the written consent of the pupil.

January 2009

  • The U.S. Department of Education issued the final regulations for the IDEA, effective January 1, 2009. These final regulations allow parents of students with disabilities to revoke consent for all special education services, and do not allow school districts to challenge the parents’ withdrawal of consent using due process procedures. Please see our memo, Final Withdrawal of Consent Regulations Issued by US Department of Education, for more details.

December 2008

  • The Illinois State Board of Education has ordered a 7% cut across the board in the budget for 2009, and is allowing school districts more leeway on how to use the funds they receive from the state for special education. See our Nonpublic Facilities Funding Alert for more information.
  • The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (Case Nos. 105741 and 105745), a case which is attempting to void the Illinois Tort Reform Statute which which caps medical malpractice lawsuit awards. The 2005 statute limited monetary damage awards for plaintiffs’ “pain and suffering” to $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals. Last year, an Illinois trial court ruled that the Tort Reform law violated the separation of powers clause by allowing the Illinois legislature to restrict deliberations by judges and juries.

October 2008


September 2008

  • A special legislative session was called in Illinois this month in order “to consider measures aimed at increasing school funding, improving the school funding structure and eliminating any current inequities.” As a result, the legislature has scheduled five public hearing dates to “give tax payers, education professionals, business and labor organizations, and civic groups a chance to have their say” regarding education funding reform. The hearings are scheduled for:
    • 9/18/08, 1 p.m. Oak Park Village Hall, City Council Chambers, 123 Madison Street, Oak Park, IL
    • 8/30/08, 6 p.m. Thornwood High School, 17101 S. Park Avenue, South Holland, IL
    • 10/2/08, 6 p.m. Loyola University, 6525 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL
    • 10/6/08, 7 p.m. Lincolnwood City Hall, City Council Chambers, 6900 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincolnwood, IL
    • 10/9/08, 1 p.m. State Capitol, Room 118, Springfield, IL

August 2008

  • President Bush signed in the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which includes provisions intended to improve the quality of K-12 teachers, increase financial aid access to low-income students, and raise accountability of higher education institutions. The bill also allows grants to improve the ability of general education teachers to teach students with disabilities and the establishment of a professional development task force for early childhood education program staff and administrators.
  • HB 4252 was signed into law, requiring school district superintendents to disclose information about employees who were reported to DCFS regarding cases of an alleged abuse or neglected child to potential employers.

July 2008

  • Illinois House Bill 4125 was signed by Governor Blagojevich, allowing for additional insurance coverage for related services for Autistic children. The bill mandates that both governmental and private insurance plans pay for an additional 20 speech therapy sessions per year for Developmentally Disabled and Autistic children, and goes into effect immediately.
  • Illinois was named one of five states in the country to implement a new pilot program related to the No Child Left Behind Act which would allow school district’s more flexibility in implementing the law. Under the current law, school populations are broken into groups based on race, ethnicity, language and special learning needs. If one of those groups failed to meet state and federal standards, then the whole school would face sanctions. Under the new pilot program, sanctions would be limited to the specific population which failed, allowing for schools to overhaul specific programs, instead of their entire curriculum. More information regarding this pilot program can be found at http://www.isbe.state.il.us/news/2008/july1.htm.
  • The Illinois minimum wage increase takes effect July 1, 2008, increasing the minimum wage from $7.50/hour to $7.75/hour.

June 2008

  • WTH recently prevailed in an administrative due process hearing against the Chicago Public School District in a case which involved a 10-year-old boy with learning disabilities who was receiving inappropriate services at his homeschool. Please see this case summary for more details about J.I. v Chicago Public School District No. 299.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education approved the special education procedures developed by the Illinois Council of School Attorneys. A copy of the model procedures can be found here on the Illinois Association of School Board’s website.
  • Proposed HB 4536 passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor’s signature, and will amend the Downstate Teacher Article of the Illinois Pension Code, allowing teachers to return from retirement to teach in subject shortage areas without impairing their retirement status or annuities.

May 2008

  • In May 2008, the Illinois State Board of Education issued ratings for every Illinois school district on their “performance… with regard to the provision of special education services.” More information regarding these “Determinations” can be found on ISBE’s website at http://www.isbe.state.il.us/spec-ed/html/lea_determinations.htm. While detailed information broken down by each school district is not available, a 177-page report summarizing the findings of the investigation found an increased number of non-graduating special education students (as compared to regular education students), that a mere 56.6% of parents surveyed reported that they believed their local school districts were facilitating parent involvement as a means of improving services and results for children with disabilities, and that only 24% of children age 16 and above had IEPs that included coordinated, measurable, annual goals and transition services that would reasonably enable the student to meet post-secondary goals.
  • A new Illinois law, SB 1865, was introduced to the Illinois legislature which would allow for an increased penalty (from $20,000 to $30,000) against parents who performed “willful or malicious acts [against a] minor which cause injury to a person or property” in accordance with the Parental Responsibility Law, and would allow school districts to recover attorney fees as damages in these cases.
  • New legislation (HB 1007) has been introduced which would allow individuals currently holding a valid school service personnel certificate to receive a 5-year renewal of their certificate upon completion of 80 hours of continuing professional development.

April 2008

  • A new study published by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine finds that adopted children have a higher risk of exhibiting the characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as teenagers. The study, titled The Mental Health of US Adolescents Adopted in Infancy, was led by Margaret Keyes, a University of Minnesota research psychologist.
  • The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its decision in the Nuxoll v Indian Prairie School District 204 case, ordering that Indian Prairie School District 204 be compelled to allow a high school student to wear a t-shirt in school which read “Be Happy, Not Gay.”
  • Two newly proposed Illinois bills, SB 2689 and SB 2689, would benefit educational support personnel and teachers if approved by both houses. The first, SB 2689, would require school districts to allow school personnel to accrue up to 240 days of sick leave at full pay. The second, SB 2689, would require that school districts grant tenure to a teacher after only two years (as opposed to four) if that teacher had been previously been granted tenure at another school district.

March 2008

  • The 11th Circuit court of appeals upheld the lower court’s decision to award parents of a disabled child four years of prospective private school placement as compensatory relief. In its opinion, Jarron Draper v Atlanta Independent School System , the court of appeals specifically rejected the claim that the student had to prove the district was incapable of providing compensatory education prior to receiving continued prospective placement at a private special education school.
  • The U.S. Department of Education announced a new NCLB pilot program, the Differentiated Accountability Pilot Program , which is aimed at helping states differentiate between underperforming schools which need “dramatic interventions,” as opposed to schools which are closer to meeting the NCLB goals.
  • A new study, The Teaching Penalty – Teacher Pay Losing Ground , was released by the economic Policy Institute, which indicated that teachers’ salaries across the country over the last decade are increasingly lower than other occupations requiring similar education and skills. Illinois’ teachers specifically were, on average, found to be earning just 76% of other comparable professions.

February 2008

  • The 7th Circuit court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education that alleged the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) are legally incompatible. The decision, Board of Education of Ottawa Township High School District 140 v U.S. Department of Education (07-2008) comes after two Illinois school districts and several special education students and their parents filed the suit, asking for the court to invalidate the NCLB requirements for changes in a child’s IEP without regard to the students’ individualized needs.
  • A new law, HB 5578, is introduced to the Illinois legislature which would require parties seeking public school employees to testify during school hours to obtain a court order for testimony. In addition, it would require the party to pay a witness and mileage fee to the witness, as well as a fee to the school district to reimburse it for costs associated with providing a substitute teacher or other substitute staff member in the employee’s absence.
  • New legislation (H.B. 4448) has been introduced, which would provide for the public release of profiles of professionals falling under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 (namely physicians), including information relating to criminal charges, administrative disciplinary actions and hospital privilege revocations.

January 2008

  • The “Civil Rights Act of 2008” was introduced in both the U.S. House (H.R. 5129) and U.S. Senate (S. 2554). The bill, among other provisions, impacts the IDEA by reversing two important U.S. Supreme Court rulings: Buckhannon and Murphy. In Buckhannon, the Supreme court ruled that parents were not allowed attorneys fees as “prevailing parties” if parents entered into settlement agreements with school districts. In Murphy, the Supreme court ruled that parents were not entitled to expert fees as part of the fee shifting provision in the IDEA. The purpose of these these new bills is stated as being “To restore, reaffirm, and reconcile legal rights and remedies under civil rights statutes.”
  • The Illinois House of Representatives also introduced a bill, H.B. 4268, which would require school districts who expel a student to “permit the student to transfer to another attendance center within the district for the remainder of the expulsion.”
  • The Illinois High School Association’s Board of Directors voted 10-0 to begin mandatory, random drug testing for all student athletes, including for steroids. Testing is to begin with the 2008-2009 school year. This is the first time the IHSA has mandated statewide testing, and Illinois will now become the fourth state in the country to test for steroids.

New legislation (H.B. 1509) went into effect on January 1, 2008 which will now allows employees to commence civil actions in a circuit court based on violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Previously, these complaints were handled administratively by the institution. However, with the new addition to the Act, employees are now afforded full litigation rights, including depositions and the right to a jury trial, for alleged violations.


December 2007

  • Illinois Senator Barack Obama introduced U.S. Senate Bill 2428 to establish and maintain a public website through which parents and students can access a complete database of available scholarships, fellowships and other financial assistance programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a fact sheet on the application of federal anti-discrimination laws, which provides “best practices” recommendations regarding the use of employment tests and screening devices.

November 2007

  • Parents of triplets filed a Petition to the U.S. Supreme court to determine whether the “stay put” provision in the IDEA applies to early intervention services. The parents rejected the triplets’ proposed IEPs upon turning age three, and argue that the district has to continue to fund implementation of their early intervention services pending a final outcome of the dispute. D.P. ex rel. E.P., D.P. and K.P v. School Bd. of Broward County , 483 F.3d 725 (11th Cir. 04/03/07)
  • ISBE announced that, beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, it will no longer be administering the Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English (IMAGE) testing to limited English proficiency students. Instead, the students will begin receiving the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE) with accommodations, pending the creation of a new appropriate standardized test acceptable to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • A new public act (94-349) was created to amend the Hospital Licensing Requirements, 77 Ill. Admin. Code 250, prohibiting hospitals from forcing nurses to work overtime except for “unforeseen emergent circumstances.”

October 2007

  • In addition, a U.S. District court of Illinois ruled that parents of disabled children over the age of 18 do not have independent, enforceable rights under the IDEA, and therefore dismissed an appeal of an administrative hearing decision against an Illinois school district. The opinion can be found at Loch v Board of Education of Edwardsville Community School District 7.
  • New rules (23 Ill Admin Code 401) are adopted regarding Illinois approved non-public special education programs, allowing these facilities to administer the state assessment tests, including the ISAT, PSAE and IAA. The rules also discuss class size, prohibit the use of pain as a method of discipline, require staff records to include criminal background checks, require the school to reflect students’ progress toward IEP goals to ISBE, and distinguish requirements for summer school.
  • The Healthcare Worker Background Check Act (225 ILCS 46/15) is amended, requiring electronic fingerprint checking for all new hires to “health care facilities” (including all hospitals, nursing facilities, community living facility, home healthcare facility, hospice programs, respite care providers, early childhood intervention programs, EMS providers and other supported living programs) beginning on October 1, 2007.

September 2007

  • An amendment to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (325 ILCS 5/4) was created adding public school board members and the governing body of private schools as mandated reporters.
  • A new public act (95-0449) was created to help public school teachers who teach in hard-to-staff schools or work in hard-to-staff positions to purchase residences within the school district. The act requires the Illinois Housing Development Authority to assist in these purchases, by offering a deferred payment, low-interest substitute mortgage loan.

August 2007

  • The Illinois legislature was hard at work this month, passing several new education laws which amend the School Code. One such law (105 ILCS 5/14-6.10) gives 18-year-old children the right to appoint a parent to retain educational decision-making authority for them by executing a Delegation of Rights.
  • Illinois’ first anti-bullying law (105 ILCS 5/27-23.7) was passed this month, which mandates all public school districts by the end of February 2008 to draft a written policy on bullying, and to communicate this bullying policy to parents and students on an annual basis.
  • An amendment to the school code (105 ILCS 5/26-6) allows for full-time teachers (regardless of gender) to take sick leave for birth, adoption, or placement for adoption.

July 2007

  • The Illinois minimum wage increase takes effect July 1, 2007, increasing the minimum wage from $6.50/hour to $7.50/hour.