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Lawmakers aim for Illinois to develop statewide student disciplinary guidelines

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(The Center Square) – On the governor’s desk and ready to be signed is Senate Bill 1400, which seeks to improve discipline procedures by creating statewide guidelines for school districts.

On the House floor, state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, explained how his bill, which is an initiative of the Illinois Education Association, tasks the Illinois State Board of Education to team up with experts to create standards surrounding disciplinary actions like expulsion and suspension.

“This bill came forward because the districts are seeking out further guidance to deal with issues they are having within their districts,” said West. “That’s why [in this bill] we are focused on the guidance piece that we can provide to the districts.”

The bill removes a current provision within the law that allows districts to immediately transfer a student to an alternative school, if that student has been suspended for 20 days or more. State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, said he’s concerned the guidelines will eventually be used to usurp local control.

“I don’t know why we need to put this into statute in order to do this,” said Ugaste. “While I am not terribly opposed to this, I will likely not support this.”

State Rep. David Friess, R-Red Bud, shared a story on the House floor about his wife, a teacher, being swung at by a student. Friess said because the student had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) the district policy says that particular students couldn’t be expelled. Friess supported the legislation.

“Another, very bizarre situation at this school, they had a kid masturbating in school. This happened repeatedly before they could get rid of him. This individual should not have been in a regular education classroom, he should have been relocated,” said Friess. “My hope is that ISBE comes down and makes rule changes so we can remove these individuals from a regular-ed classroom.”

West was asked by state Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, if his legislation was crafted in response to prior policy that aimed to address disciplinary actions that were taken unfairly and disproportionately impacting students of color. Senate Bill 100 was introduced and passed in the 99th General Assembly by state Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood.

“The objective [of Senate Bill 100] was to make sure that instead of kids being arbitrarily suspended and kicked out of school for however long it was, is that we did everything possible to make sure that before you got to an exclusionary situation that you did everything possible to keep the child in the school building to make sure they continue to be educated,” said Davis. “And this is a situation where we appreciate the fact that after having Senate Bill 100 in place for a few years, we’ve recognized that maybe there’s a little more that we need to do.”

Senate Bill 100 says suspension and expulsion are only acceptable if all appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary interventions were exhausted.

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