Education

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…
Does your school district provide special education services to students 18 to 21? If so, it is important that you keep a close eye on HB-0040. This bill was recently introduced into the House of Representatives and proposes to amend the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/14-1.02). The current statutory language affords a student with a disability the right to continue to receive special education services from their school district until the day before their 22nd birthday. The new amendment will expand this timeline and allow a student who turns 22 during the school year…
A recent ruling of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a $44.7 million verdict against the City of Chicago after a Jury found the City liable for one of its officer’s actions while off duty. In First Midwest Bank as Guardian v. City of Chicago, the Plaintiff, a shooting victim, sued the City of Chicago after he was shot during an argument by his friend, a Chicago police officer. Plaintiff claimed that the City failed to have an “early warning system” that identified officers who might commit misconduct, failed to adequately investigate and discipline officers who engage in misconduct…
In Hickey v. Protective Life Corp., No. 20-1076, 2021 WL 525088, (7th Cir. Feb. 12, 2021), the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in the plaintiff-employee’s Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case in which he alleged that his performance reviews were negatively impacted by his taking an FMLA leave in violation of 29 C.F.R. §825.220(c) (stating that “employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions or disciplinary actions”), and upon his return from leave, he was not restored “to an…
Is your Board of Fire and Police Commissioners in compliance with the law in regard to party affiliations? The Illinois Municipal Code 65 ILCS 5/10 2.1 3, states in part that “No more than two members of the board shall belong to the same political party existing in such municipality at the time of such appointments as defined in 10-2 of the Election Code. If only one or no political party exists in such municipality at the time of such appointments, then state or national political party affiliations shall be considered in making appointments. Party affiliation shall be determined by affidavit…
A recent OCR decision out of Wyoming is a reminder to school districts of their Child Find obligations—including during remote instruction. In Teton County School District, Wyoming, OCR found in favor of the school district who responded to a doctor’s note diagnosing anxiety and depression with immediate supports and initiating an evaluation. The case illustrates the perils of informal communication about disabilities but confirms that not every reference to a disability triggers the obligation to evaluate. In the Wyoming case, there were several red flags that unfolded for school personnel. First Red Flag: The parents requested “strict” confidentiality when disclosing to…
Election season is upon us again. Public entities should be aware of the legal restrictions on political signage: Electioneering outside the 100 foot campaign free zone is permitted “Electioneering” is conduct that urges a vote for or against a party, candidate, or issue or engaging in political discussion within 100 feet of a polling place. 10 ILCS 5/7-41(c), 5/17-29. Electioneering may take the form of either verbal communication or nonverbal communication – displaying signs, wearing campaign buttons, or distributing campaign literature. Sections 7-41 and 17-29 identify that the 100-foot zone runs from each entrance to the voting room itself, not the entire building.…
ISBE has proposed amendments to the current rules regarding special education. These amendments generally track recent changes in the School Code, including PA 101-0643: Changes related to RTI and MTSS, providing written materials 3 school days prior to IEP meetings, related services logs, and providing notice of missed services. We previously covered this legislation with an overview and tips for implementation. The legislation was effective June 18, 2020. PA 101-0164: Revisions to the process for a school district to withdraw from a special education joint agreement. This legislation was effective July 26, 2019. PA 100-0465: As…
ISBE has adopted new rules to support parent participation in IEP meetings by requiring districts to arrange for and fund “qualified interpreters” for parents whose native language is other than English. We have heard concern from many clients that they do not yet have staff who meet the requirements to be a qualified interpreter. This is not surprising given that the rules are brand new and the requirements are extensive. In the meantime (and on ongoing basis if desired), districts can use outside vendors, including telephonic interpreters. The requirements for qualified interpreters are summarized below. For now, districts should focus…