November 2022

A new Illinois law, Public Act 102-926, automatically provides eligibility and access to Early Intervention services to children who are involved in the state welfare system. The intent behind the legislation is to provide preventative supports to help mitigate the effects on children under the age of three who have been impacted by trauma, neglect and abuse.

October 2022

The Federal District court, Northern District of Illinois, recently ruled in C.B. v. Board of Education of City of Chicago Public School District #299, that just because a school district violated its duty to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), it didn’t necessarily meet the standards of a viable Section 504 claim. The legal standards for discrimination claims include a requirement that a school district make decisions in “bad faith,” or “due to gross misjudgment.” Despite CPS’s failure to update the student’s IEP for a year (which resulted in him missing an entire year of school), while the parent was likely to prevail in an IDEA claim, it did not amount to a discrimination claim.

September 2022

A new Illinois law, PA 102-1072, requires school boards to inform deaf parents and parents who do not speak English as their first language that they are entitled to interpretation services during 504 Plan meetings, IEP meetings and formal mediations.

August 2022

A hearing officer in Autauga County Board of Education found that a school district’s immediate placement of a disabled elementary school student within an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (“IAES”) violated the Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”). The hearing officer found that school team’s placement of the student within the IAES, without notice or the Parents’ input and without attempting to modify the student’s behaviors in a lesser restrictive setting first by conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment (“FBA”) or implementing a Behavior Intervention Plan (“BIP”) was a violation of law.

July 2022

The Northern District Court of Illinois found in favor of the Parents in R.F. by Holderman v. City of Chicago School District when it ruled that a school district could not require a student with multiple, severe disabilities to spend approximately four hours a day on a school bus so that it could use its transportation resources more efficiently. While Federal Judge Joan Gottschall acknowledged the nationwide difficulties with securing personnel and transportation services, she nonetheless concluded that Districts are obligated to meet the transportation needs of children with disabilities, especially when it posted a risk to the student’s safety.

June 2022

A New Jersey administrative hearing officer found in favor of the parents in West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education when it determined that a disabled kindergartener’s behavior was not severe enough for the District to remove the student to homebound instruction as “emergent relief.” The hearing officer found that the student’s behavior – kicking and hitting his teacher – did not meet the “irreparable harm,” standard required for emergent relief, and concluded that removing the student from his peers (his least restrictive environment) outweighed the potential harm of having him back in school.

May 2022

In Nashua School District, A New Hampshire due process hearing officer found in favor of the parents of a student with Autism, Emotional Disabilities and speech deficits in granting placement for the student within a residential program, despite the fact that the student was skipping over a placement continuum option – private therapeutic day school – and moving to a more restrictive setting. The hearing officer affirmed the high school student’s, “…social, emotional, and other needs are not segregable from the learning process,” and noted, “… If the Student was younger, and time were not of the essence, this argument [for a lesser restrictive setting first] might have been more persuasive. In any event, the IDEA does not require that each placement on the continuum be tried before residential placement can be considered.”

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 hearing officer from the Oregon Department of Education recently ruled in Portland School District that schools cannot merely use “professional judgment,” to determine whether students require Extended School Year (“ESY”) services. In this matter, the school district denied eligibility for ESY services for a student with Autism because the school believed the child had “plateaued.” The hearing officer chastised the District for failing to take data and report on progress monitoring, stating the, “…omission of critical information did not allow the IEP team, including the parents, to make an informed decision…”

February 2022

A pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 3093, would require school districts to create an Alternative School Bills of Rights and would limit the number (and duration) of recommended student transfers to alternative schools in place of discipline.

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

A pending Senate Bill, SB 2943, would provide the Community and Residential Services Authority (“CRSA”) the authority to place students who have been found eligible for residential placement within residential agencies pursuant to individual agreements. Currently, Illinois students who have been recommended for residential placement by their local school districts can only be placed within facilities which are approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”). This would provide the CRSA, a subagency of the ISBE, to circumvent the approval requirement and place students at non-approved programs on an individualized basis.

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 Higher Education Fair Admissions Act was signed into law (PA 102-0054), which prevents Illinois higher education entities from requiring ACT or SAT testing as part of its admissions process. Students can elect to provide standardized scores, but are no longer required to do so.

August 2021

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in A.R. v Connecticut State Board of Education that public school districts in Connecticut are required to provide free educational services to students with disabilities ages 21 and 22 who have not yet earned their diploma. The appellate court argued that if the school district provided free services to non-disabled members of the community of that age range to earn their high school diploma or GED, those same services should be afforded to disabled “adults” as well.

July 2021

The Office of Civil Rights found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Schools that a North Carolina school district discriminated against its special education students when it capped special education services during COVID-19 remote instruction. The District, which implemented a district-wide capping of services to 30% of its typical school day, confirmed that it imposed the restrictions “across the board,” and did not allow for adjustments based on the individual needs of its students. OCR noted that the District should have made efforts to implement the students’ IEPs to the “maximum extent possible,” to comply with special education laws during the pandemic.

June 2021

The Illinois legislature passed two bills – SB 2748 and HB 40 – which accommodate the learning loss of special education students during COVID-19 by extending the timeframe for students to receive services. Prior to the bills, students age out of special education services upon turning age 22. The bills, however, extend services so that special education students who turned 22 during the pandemic (and who were forced to endure remote programming for a period of three months or more) can receive services through the 2021-2022 school year, despite aging out.

May 2021

A pending House bill, HB 3223, would allow a student who is the victim of a gender-based violence to immediately transfer schools if the student’s continued attendance at the original school would pose a risk to the student’s mental or physical well-being/safety. The bill also allows for a student’s status as a parent, expecting parent or victim of gender-based violence to be disclosed as a mitigating circumstance in any disciplinary (suspension or expulsion) proceeding.

April 2021

A newly-proposed House Bill, HB 1157, is aimed at eliminating bullying and cyberbullying in schools by increasing student accountability (through “restorative” measures) when the bullying is based on religion, race, ethnicity, or other Human Rights Act category. The bill specifies policies and investigation measures that would be required by school districts, as well as the provision of counseling and support services via counselors, psychologists and/or therapists.

March 2021

The 2nd Circuit Appellate court recently ruled in Board of Education for the Yorktown Central School District v. C.S. ex rel. M.S. that school districts cannot unilaterally “correct” a student’s IEP during the 30-day resolution period after a complaint is filed. In this matter, the parents of a disabled student filed for due process against the school district, arguing that it was not providing enough services to offer a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) for their daughter. The parents sought reimbursement for a private school placement as remedy. The school district, in response, attempted to unilaterally alter the student’s IEP to add services without holding a formal IEP meeting, resolution session or mediation. The appellate panel found that this was a blatant violation of procedural protections, noting IDEA and Part B regulations both require parents and districts to execute a written settlement if they reach an agreement during the 30-day resolution session. The 2nd Circuit’s decision upheld a Federal court ruling and awarded full reimbursement to the parents of the private school placement.

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

Currently pending Illinois House Bill 40 would allow special education students whose 22nd birthday occurs during the school year to continue receiving services through the end of the school year.

December 2020

A newly introduced Illinois House Bill, HB 576, would allow excused absences for students for mental/behavioral health needs.

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 9th Circuit Court of appeals has ruled in Bellflower Unified School District v. Lua ex rel. K.L., that school districts are not allowed to deny services to students who are not officially enrolled in their school district. In this matter, a California school district refused to hold a student’s annual review IEP meeting unless the parents removed her from her private parochial school setting and re-enrolled her into the public school district. The appellate panel found that the district’s refusal to offer a FAPE to the student warranted reimbursement to the parents for the student’s parochial school placement.

September 2020

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in McIntyre v. Eugene School District 4J that parents of a student with ADA claims arising out of a district’s failure to implement 504 Plan do not have to exhaust administrative remedies prior to suing their school district. The appellate panel noted that while Fry v. Napolean Community Schools (69 IDELR 116) requires parents to exhaust all non-IDEA claims alleging a denial of FAPE, it only applies to cases where FAPE is defined by the IDEA. The appellate panel found that the student, who was seeking relief for the denial of equal access as opposed to a denial of FAPE, could sue without exhausting administrative claims.

August 2020

The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) has adopted new rules which expand the Registered Apprenticeship Program for high school students. The program will allow students 16 years of age and older to enroll in an apprenticeship program which will allow them to earn their high school diploma and an industry-related occupational skills certificate at the same time. Governor Pritzker also authorized additional funding for the program, which will receive $20 million of funding in 2020 to help expand programming across the state.

July 2020

A Federal judge in Missouri has ruled in L.G. by M.G. v Columbia Public Schools that the parents of a student with a disability had valid constitutional claims against a school district for interrogating their daughter without their knowledge regarding an off-campus crime. The student, who was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder, OCD and Depression, was pulled out of class during final exams and questioned by school administration and police regarding a community crime that was committed outside of school hours and off school property. The court found that schools can be held liable for violating 4th and 14th amendment (unreasonable searches and deprivement of liberty without due process) rights of students, and the practice of permitting law enforcement officials to seize minor students, during school hours, without a valid warrant or notifying their parents is particularly harmful to a student who already has mental health needs.

June 2020

A recent Federal court ruling in Doe ex. rel. Doe v. Township High School District 214 stated that the parents of a student with Autism did not have to exhaust IDEA remedies prior to filing a federal court complaint related to disability discrimination. The parents of the student, who filed a complaint after the District had disciplined their child for behaviors related to his disability, were not claiming a denial of FAPE in the complaint. Instead, they were suing the district for discrimination after administrators pulled the student out of class, subjecting him to searches, and disciplining him for behaviors related to his social deficit. The Federal judge ruled that because the parents were not seeking relief related to the IDEA, they had a right to move forward with the discrimination claims without filing for due process first. However, the judge also ultimately dismissed the parents’ discrimination claim, arguing that the parent could not prove that the student was excluded from school programming solely due to discriminatory practices.

May 2020

The U.S. Department of Education published strengthened Title IX protections for survivors of sexual misconduct to ensure all students receive an education free from sex discrimination. The new rules further define sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sex discrimination and holds schools accountable for failure to respond equitably and promptly to sexual misconduct incidents.

April 2020

The U.S. Department of Education has released guidance to nationwide School Districts during the coronavirus outbreak requiring them to provide compensatory education services for students with disabilities after school resumes (if they are unable to do so through e-learning during school closures). The Question and Answer document will require students’ IEP or 504 Plan Teams to meet once school resumes to determine the extent to which a student requires compensatory services. The guidance also suggests that it would be “prudent” for IEP teams to include contingency distance learning plans into all students’ IEPs due to the potential for future outbreak(s) and school closures.

March 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent Stay-at-Home-Order issued by Governor Pritzker closed schools state-wide in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease. For support to its clients, Whitted Takiff created a COVID-19 website page to post the most recent federal and state-wide guidance regarding e-learning and special education services. The web page also provides a link to special education e-learning resources, where parents can access free learning resources related to specific disability areas.

February 2020

A new Illinois Senate Bill (SB 2281) was introduced which states that a student whose 22nd birthday occurs during the school year is eligible to continue receiving special education services through the end of the school year.

January 2020

A new Illinois law (PA 101-0624, effective June 1, 2020) allows a student entitled to vote in a primary, general or specific election two hours during the school day to vote on Election Day. The student’s school may specify the hours in which the student may be absent.

December 2019

A new Illinois law, PA 101-0598, was signed by the Governor which delays the requirement for school districts to provide drafts of a student’s IEP and all related documentation (including related service logs) until July 1, 2020. The delay in implementation of the requirement is to allow school districts time to create policies and procedures to insure implementation of the new law.

November 2019

A new administrative decision out of Nevada, Douglas County School District, found that a District violated the IDEA when it failed to conduct a Manifestation Determination Review (“MDR”) meeting prior to expelling a 10th grader with Other Health Impairment. The hearing officer in this matter concluded that despite the fact that the student brought a potentially dangerous airsoft pistol to school, it did not excuse the school district’s obligation to determine whether the disciplinary offense was related to the student’s disability. In addition to ordering the school district to conduct an MDR meeting, the hearing officer awarded compensatory educational services to the student for the time missed between his expulsion and the due process hearing decision.

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

New guidance from the Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”), Letter to Zirkel, allows for parents appealing the removal of a student for disciplinary purposes or appealing the District’s decision regarding a Manifestation Determination Review (“MDR”) to utilize their state complaint system, in lieu of an expedited due process hearing.

August 2019

A new Illinois law, PA 101-0515, requires school districts to utilize Response to Intervention (“RtI”) as part of the evaluation procedure to see if a student is eligible for special education services. The law also requires school districts to make parents/guardians a part of the data sharing and decision-making process, and requires the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to create guidelines for districts to facilitate parental involvement.

July 2019

A new House Bill, HB 3586, is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature, and would include parents in the data sharing and decisionmaking process regarding Response to Intervention efforts by a school district for students. The bill also requires school districts to utilize RtI information as part of a student’s case study evaluation for initial eligibility for special education services, and for ISBE to provide guidance and resources to school districts on facilitating parental involvement.

June 2019

The U.S. Department of Education created the Student Privacy Policy Office, which will now oversee the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. The new agency will provide guidance and support to schools on how to effectively manage student information, as well as provide oversight assistance (fielding complaints) for parents who believe their child’s privacy has been violated by educational institutions.

May 2019

A House Bill introduced into the Education Committee, HB 2627, would require school districts, for students under the age of 18, to contact and have present the student’s parent or guardian prior to questioning or detaining a student related to a criminal charge or allegation. For students over the age of 18, the schools will be required to inform them that they have the right to request the presence of a parent or guardian, prior to questioning or detainment.

April 2019

A pending bill in the Illinois Senate, SB 449, would add a definition of “gender-based violence” (harassment, assault or stalking) into the school code, and would require school districts to allow students who are victims of gender-based violence from other students attending their school to transfer schools immediately. If there are no other comparable schools within the student’s residential district, the victim would be allowed to transfer to a different local school district.

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.” 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.)

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.