March 2019

A newly-pending Senate Bill, SB 210, would require the Illinois High School Association to allow students who are eligible for special education services through age 21 to be eligible for interscholastic competition until the day before the student’s 22nd birthday.

February 2019

A new federal court ruling, Z.J. by L.C-W v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, has found that school districts are required to evaluate students for special education services if the student scores below average on more than one consecutive standardized test score. The judge indicated in the decision, “Given the importance that [the district] places on these scores, the court finds it more likely than not that a student who repeatedly scores well below benchmark is displaying clear signs of a potential learning disability.”

January 2019

A new Senate Bill, SB 2527, went into effect January 1, 2019, which would allow for qualified students to enroll in an unlimited amount of dual credit courses (earning an unlimited amount of credits) so long as the course was taught by a qualified Duel Credit instructor.

December 2018

A recent Wisconsin administrative decision, In re: Student with a Disability, determined that school districts must revise a student’s IEP and placement when the student requires home-hospital tutoring services. In this matter, a Wisconsin school district which had been providing home-hospital services for a student who underwent surgery, unilaterally determined that services should be discontinued due to the student being cleared by a physician to leave the house. The hearing officer found that this decision to terminate services instituted a change of placement, which is illegal without holding an official IEP meeting and allowing the parents to meaningfully participate in the team’s decision.

November 2018

The Illinois Department of Revenue adopted the Invest in Kids Act (effective October 31, 2018), which grants parents income tax credits for contributions to approved Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) (i.e. 501(c)3 corporations) for scholarships to students attending non-public schools recognized by the State Board of Education. Tax credits of up to 75% of the taxpayer’s total qualified SGO contributions can be claimed.

October 2018

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued new guidance, Letter to Mason, to school districts dissuading them from shortening students’ school days due to negative behaviors. OSEP informs districts that these short-term, repeated disciplinary referrals will amount to a “pattern” of removals, triggering the IDEA’s disciplinary protections, including the right to a manifestation determination review.

September 2018

A new Illinois, Ashley’s Law (Public Act 100-0660) requires school districts to allow parents or guardians of a student, who is a qualifying medical marijuana patient, to administer medical cannabis to students while on school premises or a school bus. Please see our more detailed memo – Ashley’s Law: Medical Cannabis in Schools – for more information regarding schools’ requirements.

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

In the first federal court case to tackle the issue, the U.S. District Court of Michigan (Eastern District) ruled that access to literacy is not a “fundamental right” of all U.S. Citizens in Gary B. v. Snyder, et. al. The 14th Amendment case, which stemmed from a complaint filed by minor children who attended a Detroit Public School, argued that the condition of the public school was so poor and inadequate that the students were deprived of a minimally adequate education. While the court agreed that, “education is certainly a vitally important governmental function, it is not a fundamental individual right for equal protection purposes…” because to do would require, “a finding that neither liberty nor justice would exist absent state-provided literacy access.”

June 2018

A newly pending Senate Bill 2641 would require social emotional screenings for all Illinois students during their mandated Child Health Examinations.

May 2018

A newly introduced Senate Bill 2344 would allow special education students in Illinois to receive services outside of a district of residence, even if the district of residence no longer has a joint agreement with the district providing special education services.

April 2018

Illinois school districts would be mandated to allow the parents of twins or multiples to establish classroom placement of their children, if pending House Bill 4368 is passed.

March 2018

Proposed Illinois House Bill 5464 would require all insurance providers to mandate unlimited benefits for inpatient and outpatient treatment of “mental, emotional, nervous, or substance use disorders or conditions.”

February 2018

A pending senate bill, SB 2468, would mandate that if the school members of an IEP team found that a student was not eligible for assistive technology (“AT”) supports, then the team would be required to include a statement in the IEP to inform parent/guardian of the decision and the basis for the decision.

January 2018

A recent decision from an Ohio federal court, Crochran v. Columbus City Schools, found that a teacher who utilized a behavioral intervention involving a “body sock” for a student with Autism did not violate the constitutional rights of that student, despite the student being injured. The federal court judge noted that only a behavioral intervention which was “so brutal, demeaning and harmful that it ‘shocks the conscience,'” would be found to violate a students’ rights.

December 2017

A new Public Act, PA 100-0122, allows parents to enact a “stay-put placement” by requesting mediation (in addition to filing a formal due process hearing complaint). If mediation is requested, the 10-day period to request a due process hearing would then begin either: 1) When the district declines to participate in mediation, or 2) When mediation attempts terminate without an agreement.

November 2017

The Northern District Court of California court ruled in favor of the school district regarding its discipline of students in Shen et al. v. Albany Unified School District.  This was a first amendment (freedom of speech) case involving five students who were expelled/suspended for posting and “liking” Instagram comments which were racist in nature toward black students and staff. Though the social media comments were made off school grounds and not during school hours, the federal court found that there was a “nexus” to the school (as most of the Instagram followers were students and the posts involved students and staff), and because it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the posts would reach the school and create a “risk of substantial disruption.”

October 2017

A new federal court decision, A.H. v. Illinois High School Association, found that a student with Cerebral Palsy was not discriminated against due to the IHSA’s denial of a requested accommodation for a track race. While disabled students are afforded accommodations to allow them an equal opportunity to participate in the event, an accommodation which would “substantially lower the standards necessary to compete and place in the race’s finals,” was considered unreasonable.

September 2017

A new Illinois federal court decision, Jackson ex rel. Jackson v. Chicago Public Schools, found that the school district’s failure to complete a preschooler’s case study evaluation within 60 school days did not amount to a violation of FAPE, as the delay was caused by the school attempting to confirm the participation of the parents in the meeting.

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

New regulations are proposed to change the current Individualized Care Grant (“ICG”) program and procedures. The program’s title will be changed to the “Family Support Program,” (“FSP”), and the new regulations would: streamline the application process, establish “clear clinical eligibility criteria,” establish prior authorization requirements for residential treatment and develop a new review process. In addition, a new program, the “Specialized Family Support Program,” (“SFSP”) would be created to “identify and respond to the specialized crisis faced by families with youth who are at risk of custody relinquishment.” The program would provide up to 90 days of assessment and “intensive community-based services,” as well as linkages to other community resources prior to the removal of a child from their parents custody.

June 2017

A pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1483, would reduce the amount of time a school district has to respond to a School Student Records Request from 15 school days to 5 business days.

May 2017

The 9th Circuit Supreme Court, in a case of first impression, held in Avila v. Spokane School District 81, that the 2-year-statute of limitations period for parents to file for due process does not prohibit parents from seeking relief from alleged denials of FAPE that occurred more than two years earlier.

April 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Endrew F. v Douglas County School District RE-1, ruled that special education students are entitled to a stronger educational benefits than the, “merely more than de minimus,”  standard.

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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

October 2016

The U.S. Department of Education issued its Final Regulations regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act.

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.

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

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.

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 mulit-sensory, systematic, and sequential instruction in reading.

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.

April 2016

Newly proposed Illinois HB 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.

March 2016

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.”  Fore more information, please see  the Governor’s press release on the Children’s Cabinet.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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 House Bill, HB 306, would allow students to opt-out of taking a standardized test if the student’s parent or guardian requests, in writing, that the student be excused from the examination. The ISBE will develop an “opt-out” form in order to do so, and the bill would prohibit state agencies from taking negative action against a school or district due to student opt out.

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.

May 2015

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 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.”

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.

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.

February 2014

Newly proposed House Bill 3700 would require schools to implement screenings for Dyslexia and other reading disabilities for all students enrolled in kindergarten.

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.

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 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.

September 2013

The Illinois Stated Board of Education published its “Overview of the USDA Released Interim Final Rule – Nutrition Standards for all Foods Sold in Schools Effective SY 2014-2015 for NSLP Participating Schools,”which requires all food to have less than 35% of its calories from fat, removes all soda and high-calorie sports drinks from school vending machines, and limits food and drink serving sizes. The new rules will go into effect in Illinois for the 2014-2015 school year.

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.

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 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 scbool 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.

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.

In addition, 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.

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.

February 2013

Newly proposed House Bill 64 would create the “Privacy in the School Setting Act,” prohibiting an Illinois school from requesting or requiring a student to provide a password for access to the student’s social networking account.

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 publically 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

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.

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.

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)

June 2012

The US 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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

September 2011

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

The Illinois school code was amended to revise the authorization requirements for students to self administer asthma medication and epi-pen injections. Please see our memo, Self Administration of Medication, for more details.

December 2010

The Illinois Appellate Court, in K.D. by Michelle 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.”

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

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.”

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 Senate Bill was passed (PA 96-1403) which allows for schools to use various sources of school funding for the purchase of electronic textbooks.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

November 2009

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan held a Cyber Safety Summit, which included law enforcement officials, parents and school officials, to discuss the dangers of cyberbullying. The attorney general’s office also has set up a website – – 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

In Richardson Indep. Sch. Dist. v Michael Z. and Carolyn Z. ex. rel. Leah Z., a Texas federal court rules that the unilateral placement of a student in a “hybrid” placement was appropriate, and orders reimbursement for the parents for the cost of this placement. Please read our memo for additional information regarding this case.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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)

October 2007

The U.S. Supreme court made a determination that the parents of a disabled child, who was never enrolled in the public school district, were entitled to reimbursement of private school tuition. (Board of Education of City School District of New York v Tom F.) The underlying U.S. District court and 2nd Circuit appellate court decisions can be found at Board of Education of City School District of New York v Tom F. (District court decision). and Board of Education of City School District of New York v Tom F. (2nd Circuit appellate decision).

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.

September 2007

The 7th circuit U.S. District court issued a decision regarding stay-put, indicating that if a specific teaching methodology is not included in a child’s IEP, then the district is not required to continue that methodology during a pending educational dispute. (John M. by Christine M. and Michael M. v Board of Education of Evanston Township High School District No. 202, 107 LRP 53843).

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 .

In addition, an anti-bullying law (105 ILCS 5/27-23.7) was finally passed in Illinois, 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.

July 2007

New Illinois special education regulations are finalized. A memo summarizing the changes can be found here: 2007 Illinois spec ed regulations revision.