Education

On June 11, 2021, the State of Illinois officially moved into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. This means that all businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, seated spectator events and more can resume operating at full capacity. Additionally, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no longer an outdoor mask requirement and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) guidance that has been governing business operations throughout the pandemic is discontinued, allowing businesses to return to their normal business practices. Per the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Phase 5 Guidance for Businesses and
On May 30, 2021, SB1577 passed both houses and, if signed by the Governor, will amend the School Code to reflect that the mental or behavioral health of a student is a “valid cause” for absence from school. Currently, valid exemptions recognized for school-age children to be absent include but are not limited to illness, religious holidays, death in the immediate family, and family emergencies. Additionally, in January 2019, “other circumstances which cause reasonable concern to the parent for the mental, emotional, or physical health or safety of the student” was added. The most recent amendment would allow parents to…
Just hours before the conclusion of the spring legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly passed two bills that will significantly impact students who receive services until age 22.  The first, HB40, impacts students who turn 22 during the school year by allowing them to continue to receive special education services until the end of that school year rather than until the day before their 22nd birthday. This is a change we have been anticipating for some time, and will take effect upon the Governor’s signature.    The second, HB 2748, titled “COVID-19 post-secondary transition recovery eligibility,” provides an extended period of IEP services for students who turned 22 “during the time in…
On May 30, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed HB219, which will further restrict the use of time out and physical restraint in Illinois schools. The legislation will take effect upon signature by Governor Pritzker. You may recall that similar bills have been introduced over the last several sessions, and the current bill is very similar to the version we previously highlighted for you. The legislature took action at the close of this session and just days following the publication of another Pro Publica article showing continued reliance on time out and physical restraint, despite reduced in-person instruction this year.…
On May 13, 2021, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights published a Q&A on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment. The document is aimed at “helping schools reopen safely and in ways that support equity among students” and addresses obligations under Section 504 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability), Title VI (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin), and Title IX (prohibiting discrimination based on sex). In the disability section, most of the answers repeat or expand on prior guidance from the Department. And on the one question where…
Before an election, some municipalities will supply a packet of information to prospective candidates indicating the number of signatures required by law to be placed on a ballot. However, can a prospective candidate rely on the number of required signatures provided by the municipality? The answer is… no! A controversy arose out of the Village of Glendale Heights where the Village Clerk distributed candidate packets with the wrong information in them.  The Clerk had reviewed the State Board of Elections Candidate’s Guide and apparently misinterpreted the filing requirements regarding the number of signatures for a petition. 10 ILCS 5/10-3 of the…
On April 28th, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., a student free speech case that every public school district in the country needs to be watching. Background This situation arose with a Snapchat message posted while off campus by a then 14-year old girl on a Saturday following the announcement of the results of cheerleading tryouts.  That girl (“B.L.”) had been placed on the junior varsity team for her sophomore year of high school, despite an incoming freshman making the varsity squad. Her anger over that decision resulted…
In Greer v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 2021 IL App (1st) 200429, the appellate court found that reviewing 28,000 pages of records responsive to a FOIA request was not unduly burdensome. On October 12, 2018, Tyrone Greer (“Greer”) submitted a FOIA request to the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (“Board”) seeking records related to racial discrimination claims he made between 1999 and 2005. There were approximately 28,000 pages of records responsive to Greer’s request that would need to be reviewed for potential exemptions. The Board asked Greer to narrow his request, but Greer…
The Department of Education recently issued Volume 2 of its COVID-19 Handbook. The handbook offers suggestions for creating safe and healthy learning environments, addressing lost instructional time, and supporting educator and staff stability and well-being. Throughout the guidance, the Department encourages readers to keep students who may have been especially impacted by the pandemic and remote learning – including students with disabilities – at the center of plans for returning to in-person learning and using American Rescue Plan funds. The reminder to focus on issues of equity and the needs of vulnerable students, including students from low-income backgrounds, students…
The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 420/4A-101 et seq., requires certain local government officials and employees to file a verified written statement of economic interests (“Statement of Economic Interests”) on or before May 1st of each year. In most cases, the Statement of Economic Interests must be filed with the County Clerk of the county in which the principal office of the unit of government with which the person is associated is located. If you are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests, then you should have received notice from your County Clerk’s office. If a Statement of Economic Interests is…
On March 23, 2021, the Governor signed legislation into effect amending the Illinois Human Rights Act to prohibit employers from barring applicants with conviction records from employment opportunities. Employers are now required to participate in an interactive process with the applicant/employee to determine whether there is a substantial relationship or unreasonable risk between the conviction noted in the records and the employment opportunity. The amendment provides employees the right to receive written notice of the employer’s determination with an explanation of the decision. Additionally, the employee/applicant is now provided an opportunity to respond with information on mitigating measures that may impact the…
Last week, a Federal Judge dismissed Section 1983 civil rights violation claims against Evanston Township High School district officials. The dismissed claims include violations of due process, equal protection and Title IX. Claims alleging that administrators failed to supervise security guards, resulting in sexual abuse by security guards, were allowed to stand. The suit, filed on behalf of a former student and her mother, alleges that the district’s employees had a “code of silence” that allowed security guards to commit acts of sexual violence against female high school students. Aside from the security guards, defendants include the district’s superintendent and…
The American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden at the end of last week includes almost $130 billion in education funding. The vast majority of that money will be distributed to school districts based on the Title I formula. This amounts to an average of $2,521 per student in Illinois, though districts with more disadvantaged students will receive more while other districts will receive less. Some of the money will also go to states to use for learning recovery grants, summer enrichment programs, and after-school programs. Of particular importance to special education directors and practitioners is that $3 billion…
On February 12, 2021, the Department of Education (“the Department”) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released guidance to support school and district leaders and educators to safely reopen elementary and secondary schools. The guidance focuses on how schools can consistently implement mitigation strategies during all school-related activities to successfully reopen schools and keep them open. To support this strategy, the Department released the COVID-19 Handbook (“the Handbook”), which is being released in two volumes, provides strategies to keep schools open and identifies ways to promote equity for communities of color and people with disabilities/chronic conditions who…
It may seem silly, but you can be disciplined for something otherwise perfectly legal at home if you do it in front of a school camera. For example, a Colorado 12-year-old was suspended for briefly passing a toy gun in front of a camera during an online art class. (See 12-Year-Old Suspended Over Toy Gun Seen in Virtual Class). The school sent the sheriff to the child’s house. Many school districts do bar students from bringing look-alike weapons, even water pistols, to school. Schools may decide that if you are online, you must obey the same rules as though…
On March 4, 2021, the PAC issued a binding opinion finding a City Council in violation of the Open Meetings Act when it went into closed session under the “probable or imminent litigation” exception, Section 2(c)(11) of the OMA and the exact wording is as follows: (11) Litigation, when an action against, affecting or on behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when the public body finds that an action is probable or imminent, in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the…