November 2022

A U.S. Court of Appeals, in Doe v. Newton Public School District, recently ruled that school districts are not required to foot the full bill for residential programming if the placement is not the Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”). In this matter, the Parents unilaterally placed their suicidal son in a residential placement after the school district continued to recommend programming at his local high school. While the appellate court agreed with the Parents that their son required a more intensive educational setting, it concluded that the student could have been educated within a lesser restrictive, therapeutic day school setting. As such, it awarded Parents reimbursement for the tuition and therapeutic costs associated with the residential placement, but denied compensation for the room and board and transportation costs.

October 2022

A Federal court in Pennsylvania, in Aja N. v. Upper Merion Area School District, refused to exclude days from the calculation of compensatory education award due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school district in the matter argued that because the district was legally mandated to halt its in-person instruction (due to a Governor’s order) and instead provide instruction in a remote manner, that the remote instructional days should not be counted as part of the compensatory education award. The Federal court disagreed, arguing that federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Education did not give school districts a pass on providing FAPE within the COVID-19 timeframe, and so those days should be counted in the calculation of compensatory services.

September 2022

A Federal District court in Virginia ruled in United States of America ex rel. Donohue v. Carranza that a school district did not violate the False Claims Act when it applied for Medicaid reimbursement for special education services delivered remotely. While a civil rights attorney made an argument claiming that the services should have been performed in person, instead of remotely, the Federal judge noted that if a student’s IEP delineates instruction could be provided either in person, “or remote location,” then it is up to the District as to discretion of implementation and reimbursement follows accordingly.

August 2022

The Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) recommended “urgent policy overhauls” to school districts across the country regarding their implementation of the IDEA to resolve discipline disparities. In reviewing data from the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection, OSEP noted that school districts are continuing to treat students with disabilities with higher rates of aversive practices, including exclusionary (suspension and expulsion) discipline. The disparities continue to place students with disabilities – especially black students – at risk for lower achievement and lower graduation rates.

July 2022

Governor Pritzker issues Executive Order 2022-16 (COVID Executive Order No. 109), which rescinds mandated vaccinations and testing of all students in educational institutions, and instead turned over decision-making authority to individual schools, with recommended continued weekly testing for those students and faculty who were not fully vaccinated.

June 2022

A 9th Circuit appellate court has ruled in N.F. by Flyte v. Antioch Unified School District that a local school district does not have an obligation to develop an IEP for a student with disabilities if they are enrolled in a public charter school. The appellate court panel found that while school districts typically do bear the burden of providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) to students, public charter schools act as their own Local Education Agencies (“LEA”), and therefore adopt the responsibility for providing a FAPE when it enrolled a student with disabilities.

May 2022

In a recent federal court decision, Abrams v. New York City Department of Education, a judge ordered the city school district to pay more than $450,000 in transportation costs for services rendered to special needs students, regardless of whether the transportation companies actually provided services to students during the COVID-19 pandemic school shut downs. The federal judge reviewed the contract language, and found that it “plainly provide[d],” that payment would occur regarding of, “unexcused absences, withdrawal, suspension or for any other reason.” As such, the District was on the hook for payment, regardless of the Governor’s executive school shut down order.

April 2022

Governor Pritzker signed into law PA 102-0703, which codifies emergency rules to allow the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to reimburse school districts for emergency residential placements of students in facilities which were not formally approved by the state board. Reimbursement is to be approved for Districts within 10 days of receipt of an application for the same, in which the District needs to show: 1) Teachers at the facility are appropriately licensed, 2) The facility provides age-appropriate curriculum, 3) The facility provides enrollment and attendance data, 4) The facility demonstrates the ability to implement the child’s IEP and 5) The District showed good faith effort toward placing the student within an approved setting, but received denials for enrollment or notice that the facility did not have immediate openings.

March 2022

A pending senate bill, SB 3986, would prohibit the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) from requiring school districts to purchase and administer standardized assessments for students in preschool through second grades, other than for diagnostic purposes.

February 2022

A recent Illinois Federal court decision, Channell ex rel. J.C. v. Chicago Board of Education, ruled that the parents of a child with a seizure disorder could not compel their local school district to hire a 1:1 nurse to accompany her son on the bus so he could attend his therapeutic day school in person. Judge Robert Dow ruled that it was the responsibility of the therapeutic day school – not the public school district – to implement the student’s IEP services. While CPS District #299 did offer to help the non-public facility hire appropriate personnel, when it failed to do so, Judge Dow noted that, “The Court will not treat [the district’s] affirmative efforts during the course of litigation as an agreement to hire a nurse or as creating a new status quo for these purposes.”

January 2022

The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”), in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”), issued updated guidance for schools regarding COVID testing and protocols in response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant outbreak. The information was provided in an attempt to maintain in-person instruction for students across the state as COVID-positive cases increased significantly once again. Updated guidance documents included:

December 2021

Governor Pritzker signed Faith’s Law (PA 102-0676) which attempts to protect students against sexual abuse. The new law expands the definition of grooming in the Illinois criminal code, creates new obligations for Illinois school districts (including increased training and reporting requirements for employees), and requires the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to develop guidance regarding sexual abuse response and prevention resources.

November 2021

The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) issued an updated State Report Card which exposed the significant impact of COVID-19 on student attendance and performance. The data reflected a 2.5% drop in enrollment in public schools across the state and a 21% increase in chronic absences (more than 10% of the school year) for students. In addition, testing found a 16.6% decline in students achieving learning standards in English and 17.8% decline in students achieving learning standards in math. The rate of 9th graders on track to graduate also declined by 5%.

October 2021

The U.S. Department of Education released resources for local school districts and private schools for help in addressing the increasing and significant mental health needs of students who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Education stated, “More than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is particularly important to acknowledge the pandemic’s impact on mental health at home and around the world, to present an opportunity for meaningful conversations about mental health, and to celebrate schools and other institutions that have found new and promising ways to provide mental health services to students.”

September 2021

The U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance encouraging local school districts to review their Child Find policies and procedures, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency suggests that districts may need to reconsider policies that rely heavily on teachers’ personal observations of students, given remote instructional models and should consider increasing the number of screenings conducted per year.

August 2021

The U.S. Department of Education released new guidance, Fact Sheet: Long COVID under Section 504 and the IDEA, to address school districts’ obligation to students with long-haul COVID symptoms. The guidance recommends screening and referral of eligibility for either Section 504 Plan services or full special education services in response to symptomology exhibited by students subsequent to infection (even if the student was non-symptomatic during illness).

July 2021

Illinois Senate Bill 517 created the High-Cost Special Education Funding Commission, which is tasked with making recommendations to Governor Pritzker and the legislature regarding an alternative funding structure for “high-cost special education students,” to ensure equity in school district reimbursement.

June 2021

The Indiana Department of Education, in Lake Ridge Tech New Schools, found a district liable for failure to implement a student’s IEP even though the student expressed a desire not to utilize an accommodation. In this case, the student informed the school that he wanted to take the PSAT test with his friends in a typical classroom, instead of in a separate classroom which would have afforded him extra time and less distractions. The district capitulated to the student’s request, and placed him within a testing environment which could not offer the accommodations. The Department of Education found that the district violated the IDEA by not following the IEP, and directed the district to amend the student’s IEP to discontinue any accommodations they no longer felt were necessary for the student.

May 2021

An Illinois Federal court, in Sterling v. Board of Education of Evanston Twp. High School District 202, would not allow a student to pursue Title IX or 14th Amendment claims against district administrators who allegedly ignored her prolonged sexual abuse by two school safety officers. The court found that “conclusory allegations” that two administrators knew about the sexual abuse by district employees were not enough to make them liable for the abuse – the parents had to be able to prove that the administrators knew about the abuse when it was happening and neglected to take action.

April 2021

A newly proposed Senate Bill, SB 517, would allow public special education day schools to be defined as a “special education facility,” comparable to private special education schools, making them eligible for state and federal funding.

March 2021

An Illinois Education Reform Bill, P.A. 101-0654, was signed by Governor Pritzker which makes significant changes to several educational areas.  Some of the more significant reform measures enacted by this bill include:

  • The addition of two years of a laboratory science to high school graduation requirements (enacted by 2024-2025 school year);
  • The addition of one year of “intensive instruction” in computer literacy to high school graduation requirement;
  • A requirement for instruction in computer literacy beginning in elementary school;
  • The addition of two years of foreign language to high school graduation requirement;
  • Revisions to learning standards for computer and social sciences;
  • A requirement for a unit of instruction on black history;

In addition, the state will create task forces/councils in several areas to conduct research, including:

  • Inclusive American History Commission;
  • Whole Child Task force;
  • Behavioral Health Services diagnostic assessment system;
  • P-20 Council to research short- and long-term learning recovery actions for public school students in wake of COVID-19

The bill will also require the following:

  • The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to create a common assessment tool for all students entering kindergarten;
  • School districts to amend their accelerated placement policy to allow for automatic enrollment of a student into the next most rigorous level of advanced coursework if the student meets/exceeds state standards in English/language arts, math or science;
  • The establishment of a six-week summer school program run by Freedom Schools, to motivate active civic engagement and empower disenfranchised communities;
  • Increase funding for Minority Teacher Scholarships and programmatic and fiscal changes to the Illinois Teaching Excellence Program; and
  • Removal of the requirement of applications for an Alternative Teacher License to achieve at least a 3.0 GPA.

February 2021

The Wisconsin Department of Education recently ruled against a school district in In re: Student with a Disability, when the District failed to consider a special education student’s individual needs prior to determining how many minutes of in-person instruction they were to receive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Education found that the District, which implemented a district-wide policy for how many minutes per week all special education students would receive, committed a procedural violation in pre-determining minutes. The Department ordered the school district to convene an IEP meeting for the student who was the subject of the complaint, stating that the amount of in-person minutes, supplementary aids and supports recommended should be an IEP team decision based on a student’s individual needs, not a District-wide policy.

January 2021

Illinois House Bill 7, which is vehemently opposed by school boards across the state of Illinois, would create a School District Efficiency Commission. The Commission’s role would be to conduct research and make recommendations to the Governor regarding cost-saving educational measures, focusing on the consolidation of school districts. The Commission’s target would be to eliminate at least 25% of all school districts within the state,  consolidating them into larger unit districts.

December 2020

A pending Illinois House Bill, HB 12, would require school districts and other educational institutions to grant Family Medical Leave to employees who have been employed for one year (12 months) and worked at least 1,000 hours within that timeframe.

November 2020

Many school districts in the state of Illinois entered into an “adaptive pause” for in-person school instruction, due to the state entering into emergency Tier 3 mitigation efforts in response to a significantly increasing number of COVID infections. Remote learning formats were reinitiated, requiring students to stay home until infection rates lowered.

October 2020

The Rehabilitation Services Administration, a division of OSERS, has provided guidance for providing job experience opportunities to students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The RSA notes that agencies are not allowed to shift their current funding for in-person work experiences to other activities – they must provide virtual work experiences in order to comply with Federal requirements.

September 2020

The 2nd Circuit Appellate court has ruled in D.S. by M.S. and R.S. v. Trumbull Board of Education that parents who disagreed with a district’s Functional Behavioral Assessment (“FBA”) were not entitled to an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) at public expense. While parents can be awarded IEEs for disagreeing with “comprehensive assessments” provided by school districts, the appellate panel ruled that FBAs do not qualify as a “comprehensive assessment,” but instead are considered “targeted examinations” of a child’s behavior.

August 2020

New rules and regulations were authorized by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) regarding the administration of Charter Schools throughout the state. The new rules will shift the authority of the Charter Schools Commission to oversee appeals of local school board decisions to revoke or no longer renew a school’s charter to ISBE, instead. It also clarifies whether charter schools created by a local school board may have their authorization transferred to ISBE.

July 2020

The Illinois State Board issues guidance on several issues, including the implementation of learning standards, transportation and school sports for schools planning to re-open during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

June 2020

ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has released formal guidance for school instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance delineates that “in person instruction is highly encouraged” as Illinois moves into Phase 4 re-opening, but allows school districts to develop hybrid in-person/remote learning plans in the event schools cannot comply with IDPH guidelines.

May 2020

The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) has proposed amendments to the pupil transportation and special education reimbursement sections of the Illinois Administrative Code in order to address issues arising from COVID-19 and the suspension of in-person instruction. The emergency rules would allow for reimbursement for out-of-the-ordinary transportation costs (e.g. distribution of food, pick-up of student assignments, use of vehicles to provide wi-fi connections,etc.), as well as for continued payment of tuition and room and board costs for private special education placements, despite school closure status.

April 2020

The U.S. Department of Education issued a Supplemental Fact Sheet, reminding school districts to seek various ways to deliver services to students with disabilities, including online or virtual instruction. In response to states’ “serious misunderstanding” regarding the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) to students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic, OCR clarified that compliance with the IDEA, ADA and Section 504 laws, “should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.” Examples offered by the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) included, “…extension of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing.”

March 2020

The National School Boards Association (“NSBA”), in conjunction with the National Association of School Nurses, has issued guidance, “COVID-19: Preparing for Widespread Illness in Your School Community: A Legal Guide for School Leaders,” which includes information to assist school boards in prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery actions.

February 2020

A recent Illinois Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) investigation, In re: City of Chicago, found in favor of the school district and substantiated the District’s reporting to the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) of a parent for alleged medical neglect due to the parent’s failure to have her child assessed at a community crisis center. The parent filed an OCR complaint against the school district, claiming their reporting was in retaliation to her previous advocacy for special education services for her child. OCR found that the parent did not meet the criteria for a retaliation claim, as she did not: 1) Prove the district acted adversely against her, or 2) Prove the adverse action had a causal connection to her previous advocacy. As the student had exhibited “frequent” violent behaviors, caused physical harm to her dedicated aide, and voiced homicidal ideations, OCR found that the District’s referral for a mental health assessment was appropriate, and that the mother’s refusal (on two occasions) to have her child assessed was, in fact, grounds for a referral to DCFS for potential medical neglect.

January 2020

A recent Illinois law, requiring school districts to provide parents of students with disabilities all written Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) materials three days prior to the meeting (as well as related service logs), was amended (PA 101-0598) to extend the compliance deadline to July 1, 2020.

December 2019

The Illinois State Board of Education filed Emergency Amendments to the Emergency Rules on Time Out and Restraints issued in November 2019, providing further clarification for private and public schools. Among the issues clarified in the emergency amendments is that ISBE is once again allowing schools to use prone and supine restraints, if necessary, if specific criteria are met during a behavioral incident. For more detailed information, please see our guidance memos regarding both the Emergency Rules and Emergency Amendments linked above.

November 2019

A new pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1557 (approved by both the House and Senate and awaiting Governor signature) acts as a “trailer bill” to the new recreational cannabis bill, clarifying that smoking cannabis is not allowed in public places (e.g. restaurants and bars) and allowing all employers (including public and private schools and mental health institutions) to declare drug-free work zones to prohibit cannabis use by employees.

October 2019

Governor Pritzker signed into law the Children and Young Adult Mental Health Crisis Act (PA 101-0461). The Act makes Illinois the first state in the country to require private insurance coverage for multi-disciplinary treatment approaches for serious mental health conditions for children and young adults under the age of 26. It also expands coverage for mental health treatment under Medicaid, as well as under the Family Support Program (“FSP”), a mental health grant system in Illinois which provides free mental health services and residential services for children and young adults suffering from severe mental health issues. The bill is effective beginning January 1, 2020.

September 2019

A new Illinois law, PA 101-0564 (effective January 1, 2020), reorganizes the list of mandated reporters for the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”), as well as requires persons under the Act to complete mandated reporter training within three months of being hired in a capacity as a mandated reporter, and at least every three years after.

August 2019

The Governor signed a new law, PA 101-0238, requiring juvenile court judges to order a mental health evaluation be conducted prior to sentencing a student under the age of 18 for a crime involving a threat against a school building or school personnel.

July 2019

A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1226, would dismantle Illinois’ State Charter School Commission (the commission responsible for appealing charter school denials by local school districts) and would transfer all responsibility (including the monitoring and maintenance of 11 approved charter schools) to the Illinois State Board of Education. The bill has passed both the House and Senate, and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature for adoption.

June 2019

A new report, Turning Rights Into Reality: How Guardianship and Alternatives Impact the Autonomy of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, published by the National Council on Disability, found that schools often provide biased information leading parents to pursue guardianship, creating a “school-to-guardianship pipeline.” The Council is requesting the US Department of Education to provide guidance to states outlining their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act to impose guardianship as only a “last resort.” For more information, see the NCD’s website.

May 2019

A pending Senate Bill, SB 1249, would require a school district to report to the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) the knowledge of any incident of sexual assault by a student against another student. Currently, these crimes are not reported to the state.

April 2019

Pending House Bill 1579 would allow Illinois juvenile courts to order a mental health evaluation prior to sentencing students for threats against a school building, school personnel or other students.

March 2019

The Illinois House is considering a proposed House Bill, HB 1559, which would require all public high schools, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, to create curriculum and possibly a unit of instruction on “media literacy.”

February 2019

A newly pending House Bill, HB 1561, would require school boards to develop threat assessment protocols and threat assessment teams. In addition, the protocols would be required to be posted on the school board’s website for public access.

January 2019

Illinois’ Senate Education Committee is considering a new Senate Bill, SB 117, which would require schools and school districts to provide notice of the destruction of student records to parents and students prior to destruction.

December 2018

A new Illinois Public Access Opinion, PAO 18-015, found that the McLean County Board’s Finance Committee violated the Open Meetings Act when discussing salaries of elected officials in a closed-session meeting. While public bodies are allowed to discuss employee information behind closed doors, there is an exception in the law for these same discussions regarding elected officials.

November 2018

The 6th Circuit Appellate Court recently ordered, in H.C. v. Fleming County Kentucky Board of Education, that a Kentucky School District did not violate Section 504 when it banned a student’s parent from entering school grounds without prior approval. While the mother of the child filed the complaint alleging that the school district was discriminating against her because she was advocating on her son’s behalf, the school was able to prove that the mother harassed, intimidated and threatened its employees and ignored a previous letter banning her from entering school property.

October 2018

The Chicago Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has ruled, in Cedar Falls Community School District, that while districts must generally allow students to use a service animal, the institutions are not mandated to provide a handler or care or supervision of the animal.

September 2018

A new Illinois law, Public Act 100-1035, encourages in-school suspension programs for elementary, middle and high school students, to focus on promoting non-violent conflict resolution and positive interactions with other students and school personnel. A school social worker or other trained mental health professional would oversee the new programming.

August 2018

Governor Rauner signed “Ashley’s Law” into effect, allowing for the administration of medical cannabis to students at school or on a school bus. Requirements for qualification include: 1) Student must be a “registered qualifying patient” authorized to use medical cannabis, 2) The individual administering the cannabis must be a “registered caregiver,” 3) Medical cannabis that can be administered at school includes only “cannabis infused products,” limited to “food, oils, ointments, or other products… that are not smoked,” and 4) After administration of the medical cannabis, it must be immediately removed from the school or the bus. The law applies to public schools, charter schools and private schools, but does not require school staff members to administer the medication.

July 2018

An Illinois appellate court found in favor of a school district in a bullying case, Castillo v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago. In the matter, the parents of a female student sued the school district after their daughter was physically attacked by another student off school grounds. The family alleged that the school district failed to discipline the bully despite previous harassment conducted on school grounds and failed to prevent the attack when it should have taken “supervisory” actions. Illinois’ 1st appellate court ruled against the family as the current Illinois laws, “only mandates that every school district create a policy on bullying; it does not mandate that a school respond to a particular instance of bullying in a particular way.”  In addition, schools are not required to to provide a “police protection service” to students, especially when off-campus.

June 2018

A new Senate Bill 3466 addresses truancy issues within a school district. It prohibits a school district from referring a student for truancy to a local agency for the issuance of public fines without first notifying alternative state agencies and offering supportive services to the family. In addition, the bill would require school districts to provide “appropriate and available services” for homeless students, students with IEPs and students with 504 Plans.

May 2018

A currently pending Senate Bill 3201 would require school districts to notify a parent, within 48 hours, of any security breach which results in the unauthorized release, disclosure or acquisition of student records.

April 2018

Should pending House Bill 4209 pass, it would require all Illinois school districts to establish a full-day kindergarten program for their students.

March 2018

A pending Senate Bill, SB 2856, would require the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to conduct or create a training program for school resource officers, and would require school districts to create a training program, on cyberbullying, sexting and sextortion for all school personnel.

February 2018

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) will be required to provide services to 19 year olds, if they are still attending high school, should currently pending HB 4737 be passed.

January 2018

A newly proposed House Bill 4281 would require school boards to provide in-service training for all personnel to identify the signs of homelessness, and provide appropriate community resource referrals and techniques.

December 2017

A newly proposed Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2236, would prevent the Invest in Kids Act (which allows tax incentives for parents who place their children in private schools) from being awarded during any taxable year for which the minimum statutory funding level was not met for the public schools.

November 2017

A federal appellate court recently ruled in R.E.B. ex rel. J.B. v. State of Hawaii Department of Education that a public school needs to take into consideration the transition needs of a child with Autism moving from a small, self-contained preschool setting to a larger, unfamiliar mainstream setting. This justices specified, “Where transition services become necessary for [children with disabilities] to ‘be educated and and participate’ in new academic environments, transition services must be included in IEPs in order to satisfy the IDEA’s ‘supplementary aids and services’ requirement.”

October 2017

A new Illinois law, PA 100-0532, shortens the time that school districts have to respond to a parent’s request to inspect and copy student records from 15 school days to 10 calendar days.

September 2017

New regulations were submitted to Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to amend the ADA Grievance Procedure as it relates to Illinois community colleges. The new regulations require the installment of an ADA Coordinator at each college, creates a standardized grievance form for individuals, provides deadlines for decision and appeals, and guidance as to the factors that should be taken into consideration on each case-by-case basis regarding the resolution of matters.

August 2017

Illinois Senate Bill 1, the new school funding bill, was passed, creating a new education funding formula for the state. The new formula brings equality to poorer school districts, as well as tax-based incentives for parents who have their children placed in non-public school facilities. For more information on the bill and how it will impact your school district’s funding, go to Fix the Formula Illinois.

July 2017

A new Public Act, 099-0781, requires school districts (for the 2017-2018 school year) to create a position for a “DCFS liaison,” who will coordinate enrollment of children under DCFS custody, track the children’s educational progress, ensure appropriate credits are earned to facilitate graduation, coordinate with community child welfare providers, and “encourage a successful transition into adulthood and post-secondary opportunities.”

June 2017

The new school funding bill, SB 1, creating a new school funding formula with an evidence-based model of school funding distribution, has passed both the House and Senate and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law. Click here to read more information regarding the bill.

May 2017

A currently pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 764, would require DCFS to distribute materials in schools listing the toll-free DCFS hotline number to be visibly displayed throughout the school.

April 2017

A pending Illinois House Bill, HB 3903, would prohibit schools from creating “booking stations” and making arrests of students on school grounds or at school-supported functions.

March 2017

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.

February 2017

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.

January 2017

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.

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.

November 2016

A newly proposed Senate Bill 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.

October 2016

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.

September 2016

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.”

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.

July 2016

The Illinois State Board of Education just published an updated version of its Appropriate Standard Practices for Illinois Special Education Due Process Proceedings, providing guidance to Illinois due process hearing officers (as well as school districts and parents) with respect to the handling of IDEA cases.

June 2016

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.

May 2016

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.”

April 2016

A newly proposed Illinois HB 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.

March 2016

The Illinois Association for School Boards has published a sample School Resource Officer (SRO) Memorandum of Understanding for school districts to utilize as part of their policy reforms pursuant to the Illinois’ new discipline law, SB 100.

February 2016

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

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.”

December 2015

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. For more information, please read our detailed memo, Illinois Awarded $42 Million in Federal Grants for the Creation and Expansion of Public Charter Schools.

November 2015

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

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.

September 2015

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.

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 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

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.

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.

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.

March 2015

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.

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

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.

December 2014

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.

November 2014

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

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.

September 2014

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

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.

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.

May 2014

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.

April 2014

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.

March 2014

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

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

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.

December 2013

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

November 2013

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.

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.

August 2013

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.

July 2013

The Illinois Council of School Attorneys published its most recent annual “Guide to Illinois Statutes Affecting Schools.”

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 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.

April 2013

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.

March 2013

A newly-proposed HB 2944 would require public school districts to administer ISAT examinations to students from non-public schools within its boundaries.

February 2013

A newly-proposed Senate Bill (SB 1307) would lower Illinois’ current compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 5.

January 2013

WTH is proud to announce that Jennifer L. Hansen is now a partner in the firm.

December 2012

A new House Bill (HB 76) introduced would create the “School Choice Act,” in Illinois, allowing for publicly funded vouchers to be used for tuition at non-public schools.

November 2012

The Illinois Supreme Courtruled 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

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.

September 2012

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.”

August 2012

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.

July 2012

The Illinois Appellate Court dismissed a lawsuit, C.E. and C.L. v BOE East St. Louis No. 189, Case No. 5-11-0390, in which the parents of parochially-placed students were suing their local school district in order to secure busing transportation on days when the public schools were not in attendance.

June 2012

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.

May 2012

A newly-proposed 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.

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.

February 2012

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.”

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

December 2011

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

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 adn list of medications on its website, and 3) Designates an Oversight Treatment Team to review decisions to administer psychotropic medications.

September 2011

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.

August 2011

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.

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.

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. In addition, the House Personnel and Pensions Committee approved SB 512, a bill overhauling the state’s current pension systems, including the Teachers’ Retirement System.

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.

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 for more details regarding the bill.

March 2011

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.

February 2011

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, HB 140, would require the ISBE to establish a standardized student expulsion policy that would apply to all school districts within the state.

December 2010

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.

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.

October 2010

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.

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.

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 bill was signed into law (PA 96-1264) that provides for reimbursement to school districts for transporting children enrolled in its early childhood programs.

June 2010

The Illinois State Board of Education released its Guidelines for Managing Life-threatening Food Allergies in Illinois Schools, from which school boards are required to implement policies beginning January 1, 2011.

May 2010

A new House Bill, HB 6079, would allow two contiguous school districts to establish cooperative elementary and high schools.

April 2010

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.

March 2010

A new 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.

February 2010

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.

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 requestor 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.

December 2009

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.

October 2009

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 publicly 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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

March 2009

The Illinois Association for the Regional Superintendent of Schools published its newly updated ROE Minimum Certification Requirements for School Personnel.

April 2009

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.

February 2009

The Illinois State Board has issued a guidance document regarding class sizes for the 2009 – 2010 school year.

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.

November 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled in Cumberland Regional High School District v Freehold Regional High School District that two New Jersey School Districts must share the cost of educating a disabled student whose parents share physical and legal custody of the student, but reside in different school districts.

October 2008

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was passed as part of the financial bailout package on October 3, 2008. Please see our alert for detailed information regarding the significance of this new Public Act.

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

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 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

June 2008

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.

May 2008

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.

April 2008

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.”

March 2008

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.

February 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit 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.

Also, 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.

January 2008

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.

December 2007

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

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.

October 2007

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.

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.

August 2007

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.