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.
      • A U.S. Court of Appeals, in Doe v. Newton Public School District, recently ruled that school districts are not required to foot the full bill for residential programming if the placement is not the Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”). In this matter, the Parents unilaterally placed their suicidal son in a residential placement after the school district continued to recommend programming at his local high school. While the appellate court agreed with the Parents that their son required a more intensive educational setting, it concluded that the student could have been educated within a lesser restrictive, therapeutic day school setting. As such, it awarded Parents reimbursement for the tuition and therapeutic costs associated with the residential placement, but denied compensation for the room and board and transportation costs.
      • The U.S. Department of Education provided updated guidance that required certifications for teaching and related service staff could not be ignored, despite the current personnel shortages that are being experienced nationwide. The Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) urged school districts to, whenever possible, explore alternative route programs which could provide expedited licensing, as long as follow up was conducted to insure full licensure and professional development requirements were being met.

 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.
      • A Federal court in Pennsylvania, in Aja N. v. Upper Merion Area School District, refused to exclude days from the calculation of compensatory education award due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The school district in the matter argued that because the district was legally mandated to halt its in-person instruction (due to a Governor’s order) and instead provide instruction in a remote manner, that the remote instructional days should not be counted as part of the compensatory education award. The Federal court disagreed, arguing that federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Education did not give school districts a pass on providing FAPE within the COVID-19 timeframe, and so those days should be counted in the calculation of compensatory services.
      • The Illinois Appellate Court recently issued a decision, In re: the Marriage of Wendy W. (2022 Ill. App. 201000), which confirmed mental health clinicians’ obligation of non-disclosure of confidential mental health information of minors to parents. For more information, see Whitted Takiff’s memo regarding the case, with the attached decision.

 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.
      • A Federal District court in Virginia ruled in United States of America ex rel. Donohue v. Carranza that a school district did not violate the False Claims Act when it applied for Medicaid reimbursement for special education services delivered remotely. While a civil rights attorney made an argument claiming that the services should have been performed in person, instead of remotely, the Federal judge noted that if a student’s IEP delineates instruction could be provided either in person, “or remote location,” then it is up to the District as to discretion of implementation and reimbursement follows accordingly.
      • The Illinois Secretary of State proposed an amendment to its regulations allowing Physical Therapists to be added to the list of medical professionals who may certify a person’s disability for purposes of obtaining a Person with a Disability Identification Card.

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.
      • The Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) recommended “urgent policy overhauls” to school districts across the country regarding their implementation of the IDEA to resolve discipline disparities. In reviewing data from the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection, OSEP noted that school districts are continuing to treat students with disabilities with higher rates of aversive practices, including exclusionary (suspension and expulsion) discipline. The disparities continue to place students with disabilities – especially black students – at risk for lower achievement and lower graduation rates.
      • The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) approves an emergency amendment to the Clinical Psychologist Licensing Act (68 IAC 1400; 46 Ill. Reg. 14076) which allows all Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) hours to be received virtually (instead of requiring 18 of the total 24 hours to be conducted in person).

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.
      • Governor Pritzker issues Executive Order 2022-16 (COVID Executive Order No. 109), which rescinds mandated vaccinations and testing of all students in educational institutions, and instead turned over decision-making authority to individual schools, with recommended continued weekly testing for those students and faculty who were not fully vaccinated.
      • The U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance to public school staff regarding the use of discipline with students with disabilities. The updated resources, created by the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (“OSERS”), were created to address the increasing “…prevalence of student mental health issues associated with the pandemic,” and “…that some students with disabilities are not receiving the supports and services necessary to address their educational needs, including their disability-based behavior.”

June 2022 
      • A new Illinois Public Act, PA 102-1053, was passed which addresses the increasing need for mental health providers in Illinois. The new law: 1) Increases grant contracts for local clinics to enhance training and supervision of new social workers, licensed professional counselors and family therapists, 2) Removes barriers in Medicaid for mental health assessment and treatment, 3) Provides tax credits for employers who employ eligible employees in rehab and mental health treatment programs, and 4) Makes changes to the licensure requirements for social workers, professional counselors and family therapists so that those who have been licensed in other jurisdictions for 5 years (instead of 10 years) are not required to submit annual proof of completion of education and supervision.
      • A 9th Circuit appellate court has ruled in N.F. by Flyte v. Antioch Unified School District that a local school district does not have an obligation to develop an IEP for a student with disabilities if they are enrolled in a public charter school. The appellate court panel found that while school districts typically do bear the burden of providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) to students, public charter schools act as their own Local Education Agencies (“LEA”), and therefore adopt the responsibility for providing a FAPE when it enrolled a student with disabilities.
      • 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.”
      • In a recent federal court decision, Abrams v. New York City Department of Education, a judge ordered the city school district to pay more than $450,000 in transportation costs for services rendered to special needs students, regardless of whether the transportation companies actually provided services to students during the COVID-19 pandemic school shut downs. The federal judge reviewed the contract language, and found that it “plainly provide[d],” that payment would occur regarding of, “unexcused absences, withdrawal, suspension or for any other reason.” As such, the District was on the hook for payment, regardless of the Governor’s executive school shut down order.
      • A new law, PA 102-0861, was passed, amending Illinois’ Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”) to clarify that physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants and athletic trainers are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect.

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.
      • A pending House Bill, HB 4798, was passed by both houses and now awaits the Governor’s signature, which would waive the requirement for a bachelor’s degree to substitute teaching applicants if they: 1) Can prove enrollment in an approved educator preparation program, and 2) Have earned at least 90 credit hours in the same.

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…”
      • A pending senate bill, SB 3986, would prohibit the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) from requiring school districts to purchase and administer standardized assessments for students in preschool through second grades, other than for diagnostic purposes.
      • A pending Illinois house bill, HB 1167, is signed into law by Governor Pritzker (PA 102-0697) which provides paid administrative leave to vaccinated, full-time school employees who are forced to take sick days due to COVID-19.

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.
      • A recent Illinois Federal court decision, Channell ex rel. J.C. v. Chicago Board of Education, ruled that the parents of a child with a seizure disorder could not compel their local school district to hire a 1:1 nurse to accompany her son on the bus so he could attend his therapeutic day school in person. Judge Robert Dow ruled that it was the responsibility of the therapeutic day school – not the public school district – to implement the student’s IEP services. While CPS District #299 did offer to help the non-public facility hire appropriate personnel, when it failed to do so, Judge Dow noted that, “The Court will not treat [the district’s] affirmative efforts during the course of litigation as an agreement to hire a nurse or as creating a new status quo for these purposes.”
      • A new pending House Bill, HB 4256, would allow Illinois school districts to waive (for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years only) the evaluation requirement for any teacher whose performance was previously rated as “excellent” or “proficient.”

January 2022 

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.
      • A pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2782, would allow for providers of special education services to contract with public school districts to create specialized programming within the public sector and to receive funding for the same through the local school district (instead of the Illinois Purchased Care Review Board (“IPCRB”).

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.
      • The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) issued an updated State Report Card which exposed the significant impact of COVID-19 on student attendance and performance. The data reflected a 2.5% drop in enrollment in public schools across the state and a 21% increase in chronic absences (more than 10% of the school year) for students. In addition, testing found a 16.6% decline in students achieving learning standards in English and 17.8% decline in students achieving learning standards in math. The rate of 9th graders on track to graduate also declined by 5%.
      • An Illinois Senate Bill (SB 1169) was signed into law by Governor Pritzker (PA 102-0667) which expands the Health Care Right of Conscience Act and prevents school employees from opting out of COVID-19 testing.

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.”
      • Illinois House Bill 2778, the School Employee Benefit and Wage Protection Bill, was passed through both the House and Senate, and sent to the Governor for signature. The bill requires school districts to provide paid sick leave to school staff for required COVID-related absences, and guaranteed wages for employees of schools which are required to close due to an emergency.

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.
      • The U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance encouraging local school districts to review their Child Find policies and procedures, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency suggests that districts may need to reconsider policies that rely heavily on teachers’ personal observations of students, given remote instructional models and should consider increasing the number of screenings conducted per year.
      • A Federal court ruled in Day ex rel. E.D. v Cedar Rapids Community School District that an Iowa school nurse did not deny a student a free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”) when she revised the students’ individual health plan (“IHP”) outside of the IEP meeting process. The judge noted that the changes made to the student’s IHP did not alter the health/nursing services as delineated in her IEP or affect the nature of the related services. In addition, since the nurse and school administrators met with the student’s parents to review changes to the plan, the parents had parental input and were provided an opportunity to voice objections.

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.
      • The U.S. Department of Education released new guidance, Fact Sheet: Long COVID under Section 504 and the IDEA, to address school districts’ obligation to students with long-haul COVID symptoms. The guidance recommends screening and referral of eligibility for either Section 504 Plan services or full special education services in response to symptomology exhibited by students subsequent to infection (even if the student was non-symptomatic during illness).
      • Illinois Senate Bill 818 was signed into law (PA 102-0522), the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act. The new law created health and safety standards for elementary schools and expands sexual health education standards for middle schools. Learning standards expanded or created by the bill included: anatomy and physiology, healthy relationships, identity, personal safety, pregnancy and reproduction, puberty, growth and adolescent development, and sexually transmitted infections. It also expands the current requirement that instruction be medically accurate, developmentally and age appropriate, as well as  culturally appropriate, inclusive, and trauma informed.

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.
      • Illinois Senate Bill 517 created the High-Cost Special Education Funding Commission, which is tasked with making recommendations to Governor Pritzker and the legislature regarding an alternative funding structure for “high-cost special education students,” to ensure equity in school district reimbursement.
      • Illinois House Bill 3308 was signed into law, which permanently extends the ability of all healthcare providers to conduct telehealth sessions with their patients, and requires them to be fully covered by insurance.

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.
      • The Indiana Department of Education, in Lake Ridge Tech New Schools, found a district liable for failure to implement a student’s IEP even though the student expressed a desire not to utilize an accommodation. In this case, the student informed the school that he wanted to take the PSAT test with his friends in a typical classroom, instead of in a separate classroom which would have afforded him extra time and less distractions. The district capitulated to the student’s request, and placed him within a testing environment which could not offer the accommodations. The Department of Education found that the district violated the IDEA by not following the IEP, and directed the district to amend the student’s IEP to discontinue any accommodations they no longer felt were necessary for the student.
      • Illinois House Bill 2643 was signed into law which allows educational support personnel to receive extended unemployment insurance benefits for the summer of 2021, due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic.

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.
      • An Illinois Federal court, in Sterling v. Board of Education of Evanston Twp. High School District 202, would not allow a student to pursue Title IX or 14th Amendment claims against district administrators who allegedly ignored her prolonged sexual abuse by two school safety officers. The court found that “conclusory allegations” that two administrators knew about the sexual abuse by district employees were not enough to make them liable for the abuse – the parents had to be able to prove that the administrators knew about the abuse when it was happening and neglected to take action.
      • A pending Illinois Senate bill, SB 808, would remove the requirement for student teacher candidates to videotape him/herself or his/her students in a classroom setting as part of their licensure requirement. The purpose of the change is to allow for greater confidentiality of students.

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.
      • A newly proposed Senate Bill, SB 517, would allow public special education day schools to be defined as a “special education facility,” comparable to private special education schools, making them eligible for state and federal funding.
      • Proposed Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2109, would require school board members and administrators to receive annual instruction on the adoption of a trauma-informed school standard.

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.
      • An Illinois Education Reform Bill, P.A. 101-0654, was signed by Governor Pritzker which makes significant changes to several educational areas.  Some of the more significant reform measures enacted by this bill include:
        • The addition of two years of a laboratory science to high school graduation requirements (enacted by 2024-2025 school year);
        • The addition of one year of “intensive instruction” in computer literacy to high school graduation requirement;
        • A requirement for instruction in computer literacy beginning in elementary school;
        • The addition of two years of foreign language to high school graduation requirement;
        • Revisions to learning standards for computer and social sciences;
        • A requirement for a unit of instruction on black history;

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

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

        The bill will also require the following:

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

February 2021  

      • The Wisconsin Department of Education recently ruled against a school district in In re: Student with a Disability, when the District failed to consider a special education student’s individual needs prior to determining how many minutes of in-person instruction they were to receive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Education found that the District, which implemented a district-wide policy for how many minutes per week all special education students would receive, committed a procedural violation in pre-determining minutes. The Department ordered the school district to convene an IEP meeting for the student who was the subject of the complaint, stating that the amount of in-person minutes, supplementary aids and supports recommended should be an IEP team decision based on a student’s individual needs, not a District-wide policy.
      • A Federal court in Georgia recently ruled in Davis ex rel. Harris v. Thomas that official immunity shielded a teacher from physical abuse claims. Despite the disturbing claims, which included a special education teacher instructing a paraprofessional to hang a disabled student from a chalkboard, mocking him and failing to take the student down until a Principal intervened, the Federal court ruled that the teacher did not act with, “…actual malice or an actual intent to cause emotional injury to [the student].” The school employee’s immunity, therefore, shielded her from abuse claims in her individual capacity.

January 2021  

      • A currently pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2071, would allow applicants who have earned a Master’s degree in social worker and holds a valid state license as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (“LCSW”) to obtain a social worker endorsement on an Educator License.
      • Illinois House Bill 7, which is vehemently opposed by school boards across the state of Illinois, would create a School District Efficiency Commission. The Commission’s role would be to conduct research and make recommendations to the Governor regarding cost-saving educational measures, focusing on the consolidation of school districts. The Commission’s target would be to eliminate at least 25% of all school districts within the state,  consolidating them into larger unit districts.
      • 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.
      • A pending Illinois House Bill, HB 12, would require school districts and other educational institutions to grant Family Medical Leave to employees who have been employed for one year (12 months) and worked at least 1,000 hours within that timeframe.

November 2020  

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

October 2020  

      • The 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.
      • The Rehabilitation Services Administration, a division of OSERS, has provided guidance for providing job experience opportunities to students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The RSA notes that agencies are not allowed to shift their current funding for in-person work experiences to other activities – they must provide virtual work experiences in order to comply with Federal requirements.
      • The Office of Special Education Programs published guidance for Early Intervention service providers for providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic. OSEP has stated that if health-related restrictions prohibit service providers from performing in-person services, then the child’s IFSP team must reconvene to consider alternatives to meet the child’s needs.

September 2020  

      • An Idaho hearing officer found in West Ada School District No. 2 that the district’s substitution of a 1:1 school nurse for a disabled student did not constitute a violation of FAPE. While the parents of the student argued that the student’s initial nurse had been chosen and trained by the parents, when that nurse had to take medical leave and a substitute had to be chosen, the IHO found that the parents did not have a right to participate in the selection of the substitute. The IHO further noted that prior consent/approval for substitute personnel are not required by law, nor did the student’s IEP require parental participation in substitution decisions.
      • The 2nd Circuit Appellate court has ruled in D.S. by M.S. and R.S. v. Trumbull Board of Education that parents who disagreed with a district’s Functional Behavioral Assessment (“FBA”) were not entitled to an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) at public expense. While parents can be awarded IEEs for disagreeing with “comprehensive assessments” provided by school districts, the appellate panel ruled that FBAs do not qualify as a “comprehensive assessment,” but instead are considered “targeted examinations” of a child’s behavior.
      • 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.
      • New rules and regulations were authorized by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) regarding the administration of Charter Schools throughout the state. The new rules will shift the authority of the Charter Schools Commission to oversee appeals of local school board decisions to revoke or no longer renew a school’s charter to ISBE, instead. It also clarifies whether charter schools created by a local school board may have their authorization transferred to ISBE.
      • The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) has revised its rules to expand the definition of “temporary school records” in the School Student Records Act. The new rules now specify that information contained in service logs maintained by educational professionals as part of their service to students with disabilities will be included in the definition of temporary school record. In addition, the new rules expand the ways that school districts can notify parents of the impending destruction of records to include publication in a student handbook or student newspaper, by U.S. mail or by, “any other means provided receipt of the notice is confirmed.”

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.
      • The Illinois State Board issues guidance on several issues, including the implementation of learning standardstransportation and school sports for schools planning to re-open during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
      • A newly proposed House Bill, HB 1459, would create the Nurse Licensure Compact Act, would allow nurses to hold “multistate” licenses, allowing licensed nurses to practice not only in their resident state, but also in additional coordinating compact states.

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.
      • ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has released formal guidance for school instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance delineates that “in person instruction is highly encouraged” as Illinois moves into Phase 4 re-opening, but allows school districts to develop hybrid in-person/remote learning plans in the event schools cannot comply with IDPH guidelines.
      • The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) issued an official statement regarding the return of in-person learning in Illinois. The IFT indicated its “grave concerns” regarding the safety of its teachers, students and community members without adequate social distancing and other safety precautions, including adequate cleaning protocols, ventilation systems, temperature checks, contract tracing and COVID-19 testing accessible to all community members.

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.
      • The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) has proposed amendments to the pupil transportation and special education reimbursement sections of the Illinois Administrative Code in order to address issues arising from COVID-19 and the suspension of in-person instruction. The emergency rules would allow for reimbursement for out-of-the-ordinary transportation costs (e.g. distribution of food, pick-up of student assignments, use of vehicles to provide wi-fi connections,etc.), as well as for continued payment of tuition and room and board costs for private special education placements, despite school closure status.
      • An Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1857, which has passed both the Senate and House and is currently awaiting signature by the Governor, would allow for retired teachers to substitute teach for 120 school days per school year without impacting their Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) benefits.

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.
      • The U.S. Department of Education issued a Supplemental Fact Sheet, reminding school districts to seek various ways to deliver services to students with disabilities, including online or virtual instruction. In response to states’ “serious misunderstanding” regarding the provision of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) to students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic, OCR clarified that compliance with the IDEA, ADA and Section 504 laws, “should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.” Examples offered by the Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) included, “…extension of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing.”
      • The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance to all school district staff to ensure children with disabilities are provided the same learning opportunities as regular education students during the COVID-19 school closures. The Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) emphasized that accessibility to technology is an important component to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities, and advised for IEP teams to continue holding annual review meetings, initial evaluations and re-evaluations (if possible) via telephone or electronic means. If face-to-face evaluations are required, OCR is allowing continuations of the evaluations until after school facilities reopen.

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.
      • The National School Boards Association (“NSBA”), in conjunction with the National Association of School Nurses, has issued guidance, “COVID-19: Preparing for Widespread Illness in Your School Community: A Legal Guide for School Leaders,” which includes information to assist school boards in prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery actions.
      • A newly proposed House Bill, HB 4510, would provide that no later than September 1, 2020, Illinois school districts must establish a teacher evaluation plan which ensures that all teachers whose performance is rated as “excellent” or “proficient” is formally evaluated once every three years and informally evaluated once every two years after receiving the rating.

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.
      • A recent Illinois Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) investigation, In re: City of Chicago, found in favor of the school district and substantiated the District’s reporting to the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) of a parent for alleged medical neglect due to the parent’s failure to have her child assessed at a community crisis center. The parent filed an OCR complaint against the school district, claiming their reporting was in retaliation to her previous advocacy for special education services for her child. OCR found that the parent did not meet the criteria for a retaliation claim, as she did not: 1) Prove the district acted adversely against her, or 2) Prove the adverse action had a causal connection to her previous advocacy. As the student had exhibited “frequent” violent behaviors, caused physical harm to her dedicated aide, and voiced homicidal ideations, OCR found that the District’s referral for a mental health assessment was appropriate, and that the mother’s refusal (on two occasions) to have her child assessed was, in fact, grounds for a referral to DCFS for potential medical neglect.
      • A newly proposed Senate Bill (SB 3001) would provide that an applicant who has earned their Master’s Degree in social work and holds a valid Social Worker license from the State of Illinois may obtain a social worker endorsement on an Educator License with Stipulations from the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”).

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.
      • A recent Illinois law, requiring school districts to provide parents of students with disabilities all written Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) materials three days prior to the meeting (as well as related service logs), was amended (PA 101-0598) to extend the compliance deadline to July 1, 2020.
      • A new law, PA 101-0594 (effective immediately), reinstates a competency test for people seeking a paraprofessional educator endorsement to work in Illinois schools.

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.
      • The Illinois State Board of Education filed Emergency Amendments to the Emergency Rules on Time Out and Restraints issued in November 2019, providing further clarification for private and public schools. Among the issues clarified in the emergency amendments is that ISBE is once again allowing schools to use prone and supine restraints, if necessary, if specific criteria are met during a behavioral incident. For more detailed information, please see our guidance memos regarding both the Emergency Rules and Emergency Amendments linked above.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 101-0594, was signed by the Governor which amends the Educator Licensure Article of the School Code to allow certification of a Paraprofessional on an Educator License to be issued to an application who (among other qualifications) has passed a paraprofessional competency test. The new law will allow paraprofessionals to bypass the requirement for an associate’s degree or minimum number of higher education credits if they can pass the competency test, and is hoped to relieve the severe paraprofessional shortage (955 open positions as of the end of October 2019) being experienced by school districts throughout the state of Illinois.

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.
      • A new pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1557 (approved by both the House and Senate and awaiting Governor signature) acts as a “trailer bill” to the new recreational cannabis bill, clarifying that smoking cannabis is not allowed in public places (e.g. restaurants and bars) and allowing all employers (including public and private schools and mental health institutions) to declare drug-free work zones to prohibit cannabis use by employees.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 101-0620, was signed by the Governor which protects the privacy of public employees, affirms collective bargaining rights, and clarifies due deduction procedures. For a more detailed description of the new provisions of the law, see the Illinois Education Association’s coverage of the legislation.

 October 2019 

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

September 2019 

      • A new Illinois law, PA 101-0564 (effective January 1, 2020), reorganizes the list of mandated reporters for the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”), as well as requires persons under the Act to complete mandated reporter training within three months of being hired in a capacity as a mandated reporter, and at least every three years after.
      • 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.
      • Governor Pritzker signed a new law (PA 101-0443) granting Illinois teachers a minimum salary of $40,000. The state will increase the minimum salaries incrementally over the next four years:
        • Not less than $32,076 for 2020-2021;
        • Not less than $34,576 for 2021-2022;
        • Not less than $37,076 for 2022-2023; and
        • Not less than $40,000 for 2023-2024.

        The minimum salary after 2024 then will be increased per the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) from the previous school year.

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.
      • The Governor signed a new law, PA 101-0238, requiring juvenile court judges to order a mental health evaluation be conducted prior to sentencing a student under the age of 18 for a crime involving a threat against a school building or school personnel.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 101-0370, requires public school districts, public schools, charter schools or non-public schools to allow school nurses and/or school administrators to administer a medical cannabis infused product to a student.

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.
      • A new revision (P.A. 1001-0046) to the Illinois law regarding educational support personnel employees requires that if an employee is fired as a result of a Reduction in Force (RIF), if the employee is rehired by the same school district at some point in the future, the employee maintains the rights accrued during the previous service with the school district.
      • A new Illinois Senate Bill, SB 1226, would dismantle Illinois’ State Charter School Commission (the commission responsible for appealing charter school denials by local school districts) and would transfer all responsibility (including the monitoring and maintenance of 11 approved charter schools) to the Illinois State Board of Education. The bill has passed both the House and Senate, and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature for adoption.

June 2019 

      • 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.
      • A new report, Turning Rights Into Reality: How Guardianship and Alternatives Impact the Autonomy of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, published by the National Council on Disability, found that schools often provide biased information leading parents to pursue guardianship, creating a “school-to-guardianship pipeline.” The Council is requesting the US Department of Education to provide guidance to states outlining their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act to impose guardianship as only a “last resort.” For more information, see the NCD’s website.
      • A new 7th Circuit appellate decision, Manley v. Hinsdale Township High School District #86, denied a school board member’s suit against its school district, which was investigating the board member for violating its own board policy. The investigation was spurred after the school board member got into a verbal altercation with a student, who was leafletting for the school board member’s election opponent outside of a high school play. The student alleged that the board member bullied her during the altercation, and a bullying investigation ensued. The board member then sued the school district, arguing that the investigation violated her Constitutional rights of 1) a feeling of fair-dealing on the part of government, 2) mental and emotional well-being, and 3) entitlement to processes mandated by the State and the District. Both the federal and appellate courts denied the board member’s claims, indicating that none of the three interests cited were Constitutionally protected, and stated that, “American politics is not for the thin-skinned, even or perhaps, especially, at the local level.” The decision also serves as a reminder that school board members, like district employees and agents, are also subject to complaints of improper conduct toward students under various board policies.

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.
      • A pending Senate Bill, SB 1249, would require a school district to report to the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) the knowledge of any incident of sexual assault by a student against another student. Currently, these crimes are not reported to the state.
      • Pending Senate Bill 456 would require stricter criminal background checks for school personnel, requiring them to be performed every 5 years (instead of only prior to hiring). In addition, it would allow the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to conduct random audits of teachers to determine if they are fulfilling continuing education requirements, and would require ISBE to immediately suspend or revoke a teacher’s licensing if they are arrested for committing, or attempting to commit, certain felonies, including sex offenses, first degree murder, or a Class X felony.

 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.
      • Pending House Bill 1579 would allow Illinois juvenile courts to order a mental health evaluation prior to sentencing students for threats against a school building, school personnel or other students.
      • A new pending bill, House Bill 355, would require educators to devote 15 of their required 120 hours of professional development to training on inclusive instructional and behavioral strategies to improve the social and emotional growth for all students.

March 2019 

      • The Illinois House is considering a proposed House Bill, HB 1559, which would require all public high schools, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, to create curriculum and possibly a unit of instruction on “media literacy.”
      • 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.
      • A recent Indiana Department of Education Office of Special Education ruling, Westview School Corporation, allows for substitute teachers, who are supervised by a properly-licensed special education teacher, to provide direct services to special education students without being licensed as a special educator.

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.”
      • A newly pending House Bill, HB 1561, would require school boards to develop threat assessment protocols and threat assessment teams. In addition, the protocols would be required to be posted on the school board’s website for public access.
      • The Illinois House Judiciary-Criminal Committee is considering a proposed House Bill, HB 2235, which would allow for school resource officers to carry a firearm.

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.
      • Illinois’ Senate Education Committee is considering a new Senate Bill, SB 117, which would require schools and school districts to provide notice of the destruction of student records to parents and students prior to destruction.
      • A newly proposed Illinois House Bill, HB 4657, would create the Emotional Intelligence Education Task Force to help develop curriculum guidelines and best practices on social-emotional learning (SEL) and emotional intelligence.

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.
      • A new Illinois Public Access Opinion, PAO 18-015, found that the McLean County Board’s Finance Committee violated the Open Meetings Act when discussing salaries of elected officials in a closed-session meeting. While public bodies are allowed to discuss employee information behind closed doors, there is an exception in the law for these same discussions regarding elected officials.
      • The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana has developed the IEP Quality Project, a grant-based project which provides resources for special education teachers to help create more appropriate IEP goals, services and accommodations for individual students.  To register for access, visit the web link.

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.
      • The 6th Circuit Appellate Court recently ordered, in H.C. v. Fleming County Kentucky Board of Education, that a Kentucky School District did not violate Section 504 when it banned a student’s parent from entering school grounds without prior approval. While the mother of the child filed the complaint alleging that the school district was discriminating against her because she was advocating on her son’s behalf, the school was able to prove that the mother harassed, intimidated and threatened its employees and ignored a previous letter banning her from entering school property.
      • The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved specific recommendations to expand and diversify the state’s highly qualified teacher workforce. Specific legislative changes will: 1) Create three job-embedded routes to licensure for paraprofessionals, substitutes, transitional bilingual educators, and career changers, 2) Remove the requirement of a test of basic skills for individuals already possessing a bachelor’s degree (from a regionally accredited institution), and 3) Expand mentoring supports to experienced teachers and professionals.

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.
      • The Chicago Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has ruled, in Cedar Falls Community School District, that while districts must generally allow students to use a service animal, the institutions are not mandated to provide a handler or care or supervision of the animal.
      • A vetoed Illinois House Bill 4743, overridden by the House of Representatives, would disallow employers from discriminating against African American employees, and requires that all employees who engage in the same or substantially similar work, requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, to be paid equally.

September 2018

      • New guidance has been issued for Ashley’s Law (Public Act 100-0660), which 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.
      • A new Illinois law, Public Act 100-1035, encourages in-school suspension programs for elementary, middle and high school students, to focus on promoting non-violent conflict resolution and positive interactions with other students and school personnel. A school social worker or other trained mental health professional would oversee the new programming.
      • A new Illinois law, Public Act 100-1066, allows greater rights for employees when filing claims against their employers under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The new amendments allow: 1) A longer time period (300 days, up from 180 calendar days) for employees to file complaints, 2) Restructuring of the IHRA Commission in order to expedite matters and decrease the backlog of cases, and 3) The ability to opt out of the Illinois Department of Human Rights administrative investigation and instead move forward immediately with a complaint in Illinois’ state circuit courts.

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.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 100-0684, requires teachers to provide instruction during sex education classes (with an emphasis on workplace and life on a college campus) material and discussion on what constitutes sexual consent and what may be considered sexual harassment or assault.

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.”
      • An Illinois appellate court found in favor of a school district in a bullying case, Castillo v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago. In the matter, the parents of a female student sued the school district after their daughter was physically attacked by another student off school grounds. The family alleged that the school district failed to discipline the bully despite previous harassment conducted on school grounds and failed to prevent the attack when it should have taken “supervisory” actions. Illinois’ 1st appellate court ruled against the family as the current Illinois laws, “only mandates that every school district create a policy on bullying; it does not mandate that a school respond to a particular instance of bullying in a particular way.”  In addition, schools are not required to to provide a “police protection service” to students, especially when off-campus.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 100-0625, requires law enforcement officers (if requested) to accompany DCFS workers during investigations of child abuse or neglect.

June 2018

      • A newly pending Senate Bill 2641 would require social emotional screenings for all Illinois students during their mandated Child Health Examinations.
      • A new Senate Bill 3466 addresses truancy issues within a school district. It prohibits a school district from referring a student for truancy to a local agency for the issuance of public fines without first notifying alternative state agencies and offering supportive services to the family. In addition, the bill would require school districts to provide “appropriate and available services” for homeless students, students with IEPs and students with 504 Plans.
      • The Illinois School and Campus Safety Program and Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Executive Institute will be providing free two-day Student Behavioral Threat Assessment Workshops in July 2018. School administrators, board members, counselors, SROs, mental health agencies and local law enforcement are encouraged to attend one of the two training programs, offered at Dunlap High School in Dunlap, Illinois on July 16-17 or at Wredling Middle School in St. Charles on July 18-19. For more information, register here.

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.
      • A currently pending Senate Bill 3201 would require school districts to notify a parent, within 48 hours, of any security breach which results in the unauthorized release, disclosure or acquisition of student records.
      • Currently pending Senate Bill 2925 would codify the role of School Resource Officers (“SROs”) within schools, establishing a training program and requiring law enforcement agencies to conduct training to all current and new SROs before January 2021.

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.
      • Should pending House Bill 4209 pass, it would require all Illinois school districts to establish a full-day kindergarten program for their students.
      • A newly proposed Illinois House Bill 5482, would prohibit anyone from being denied a teaching license based solely upon citizenship or immigration status.

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.”
      • A pending Senate Bill, SB 2856, would require the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to conduct or create a training program for school resource officers, and would require school districts to create a training program, on cyberbullying, sexting and sextortion for all school personnel.
      • A new House Bill, HB 5110, proposes that all out-of-state licensed clinical social workers, social workers, professional counselors or clinical professional counselors would be eligible for a reciprocal license in the state of Illinois, as long as the requirements for licensure in the previous jurisdiction are substantially equivalent to Illinois’ standards.

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.
      • The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) will be required to provide services to 19 year olds, if they are still attending high school, should currently pending HB 4737 be passed.
      • Proposed Illinois Senate Bill 2892 would mandate a minimum teacher salary at $40,000 (the current minimum amount is $10,000).

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.
      • A newly proposed House Bill 4281 would require school boards to provide in-service training for all personnel to identify the signs of homelessness, and provide appropriate community resource referrals and techniques.
      • A newly proposed Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2542, would amend the definition of “school psychologist” to include any person who holds a Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential (rather than certificate).

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.
      • A newly proposed Illinois Senate Bill, SB 2236, would prevent the Invest in Kids Act (which allows tax incentives for parents who place their children in private schools) from being awarded during any taxable year for which the minimum statutory funding level was not met for the public schools.
      • Illinois police are now required to complete Crisis Intervention Training (“CIT”) as art of their basic training requirements, under new Illinois law PA 100-0247. The CIT would include training on how to handle domestic violence situations, as well as “mental health awareness and response” training.

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.”
      • A federal appellate court recently ruled in R.E.B. ex rel. J.B. v. State of Hawaii Department of Education that a public school needs to take into consideration the transition needs of a child with Autism moving from a small, self-contained preschool setting to a larger, unfamiliar mainstream setting. This justices specified, “Where transition services become necessary for [children with disabilities] to ‘be educated and and participate’ in new academic environments, transition services must be included in IEPs in order to satisfy the IDEA’s ‘supplementary aids and services’ requirement.”
      • A new Illinois law, PA 100-0196, amends the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code to increase outpatient therapy efforts to children under the age of 12. The law increases the number of sessions that can be held without parental consent from 5 to 8, and increases the length of each session from 45 to 90 minutes. It also allows for the continuation of therapy sessions if the provider makes at least two unsuccessful attempts to obtain consent from the parents/guardians, and if obtaining parental consent would be detrimental to the well-being of the minor.

October 2017

      • A new Illinois law, PA 100-0176, allows for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to recommend the removal  of a school employee that is subject of a investigation, pending the outcome of the inquiry.
      • 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.
      • A new Illinois law, PA 100-0532, shortens the time that school districts have to respond to a parent’s request to inspect and copy student records from 15 school days to 10 calendar days.

September 2017

      • 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.
      • New regulations were submitted to Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to amend the ADA Grievance Procedure as it relates to Illinois community colleges. The new regulations require the installment of an ADA Coordinator at each college, creates a standardized grievance form for individuals, provides deadlines for decision and appeals, and guidance as to the factors that should be taken into consideration on each case-by-case basis regarding the resolution of matters.
      • A new federal court decision, R.G. v. Hill, clarified that a school nurse who was assigned to more than one school was fully capable of implementing the nursing services required by a student with a seizure disorder, who might require emergency medical care.

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.
      • A new Public Act, 099-0781, requires school districts (for the 2017-2018 school year) to create a position for a “DCFS liaison,” who will coordinate enrollment of children under DCFS custody, track the children’s educational progress, ensure appropriate credits are earned to facilitate graduation, coordinate with community child welfare providers, and “encourage a successful transition into adulthood and post-secondary opportunities.”
      • A new Public Act 90-0927, effective June 1, 2017, would require all students (beginning with the 2017-2018 school year) to receive  “age-appropriate developmental screenings,” and “age-appropriate social emotional screenings,” as part of their required health examination and immunization screenings for certain grade levels.

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.
      • The new school funding bill, SB 1, creating a new school funding formula with an evidence-based model of school funding distribution, has passed both the House and Senate and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law. Click here to read more information regarding the bill.
      • The Illinois Senate Labor Committee is set to hear discussion surrounding HB 2462, which would prohibit employers from screening job applicants based on wage and salary history, or seeking salary history information from an applicant’s current/former employer.

May 2017

      • Illinois pending HB 2545 would require all school personnel to undergo training every other year on the warning signs of mental illness and school district policies regarding suicide awareness.
      • A currently pending Illinois Senate Bill, SB 764, would require DCFS to distribute materials in schools listing the toll-free DCFS hotline number to be visibly displayed throughout the school.
      • 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

      • A pending Illinois House Bill, HB 3903, would prohibit schools from creating “booking stations” and making arrests of students on school grounds or at school-supported functions.
      • A newly proposed House Bill, HB 3021, would require the Illinois State Board of Education to implement a program allowing temporary staffing firms to contract with school districts to provide substitute teachers, due to the current shortage in the state.

March 2017

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

February 2017

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

January 2017

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

December 2016

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

November 2016

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

October 2016

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

September 2016

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

August 2016

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

July 2016

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

June 2016

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

May 2016

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

April 2016

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

March 2016

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

February 2016

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

January 2016

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

December 2015

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

November 2015

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

October 2015

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

September 2015

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

August 2015

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

July 2015

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

June 2015

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

May 2015

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

April 2015

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

March 2015

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

February 2015

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

January 2015

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

December 2014

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

November 2014

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

October 2014

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

September 2014

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

August 2014

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

July 2014

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

June 2014

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

May 2014

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

April 2014

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

March 2014

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

February 2014

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

January 2014

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

December 2013

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

November 2013

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

October 2013

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

September 2013

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

August 2013

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

July 2013

June 2013

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

May 2013

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

April 2013

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

March 2013

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

February 2013

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

January 2013

December 2012

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

November 2012

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

October 2012

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

September 2012

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

August 2012

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

July 2012

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

June 2012

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

May 2012

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

April 2012

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

March 2012

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

February 2012

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

January 2012

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

December 2011

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

November 2011

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

October 2011

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

September 2011

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

August 2011

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

July 2011

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

June 2011

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

May 2011

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

April 2011

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

March 2011

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

February 2011

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

January 2011

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

December 2010

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

November 2010

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

October 2010

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

September 2010

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

August 2010

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

July 2010

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

June 2010

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

May 2010

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

April 2010

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

March 2010

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

February 2010

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

January 2010

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

December 2009

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

November 2009

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

October 2009

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

September 2009

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

August 2009

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

July 2009

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

June 2009

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

May 2009

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

April 2009

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

March 2009

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

February 2009

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

January 2009

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

December 2008

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

October 2008

September 2008

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

August 2008

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

July 2008

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

June 2008

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

May 2008

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

April 2008

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

March 2008

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

February 2008

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

January 2008

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

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

December 2007

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

November 2007

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

October 2007

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

September 2007

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

August 2007

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

July 2007

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