A Summer of Legislative Success for the Children of Illinois

The Illinois PTA is pleased to announce another success on Illinois PTA-supported legislation: Senate Bill 1793, Suicide Awareness Policy, was signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 21, 2015. Now known as Public Act 99-0443 or Ann Marie’s Law, requires that the State Board of Education:

  • Develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy in consultation with an Illinois youth suicide prevention organization and organizations representing school boards and personnel.
  • Compile, develop, and publicly post online recommended guidelines and educational materials for training and professional development as well as recommended resources and age-appropriate educational materials on youth suicide awareness and prevention.
  • The model policy is to include a statement on youth suicide awareness and prevention; protocols for education of staff and students; prevention methods, including procedures for early identification and referral of at-risk students; methods of intervention; response methods; reporting procedures; and recommended resources, including contact information.

Beginning with the 201-2016 school year, each school board is to review and update its current suicide awareness and prevention policy or adopt an age-appropriate youth suicide awareness and prevention policy consistent with this statute, and inform employees and parents of enrolled students of this policy.

The guidelines and resources provided by Ann Marie’s Law have been needed for some time: according to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide has been the 3rd leading cause of death of Illinois children aged 10 years to 21 years old for at least a decade.

The Illinois PTA wrote directly to Governor Rauner urging his signature on this Bill and several others. Additional legislative successes this spring on bills that the Illinois PTA has supported include legislation in the areas of Children’s Health and Safety, Education Issues, and Juvenile Justice, noted below:

Children’s Health and Safety

  • Senate Bill 7, the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, now Public Act 99-2455, will further protect Illinois youth should they experience a concussion by providing post-concussion screening and treatment prior to returning to play in both scholastic and park district organized athletics. In the past, even with recognized return-to-play standards for concussions and head injuries, some affected youth athletes were prematurely returned to play. This statute updates the safety protocols currently in place to better prevent these injuries, and to further ensure the appropriate treatment and oversight of concussion of youth athletes. Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 3.9 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the USA annually.
  • Senate Bill 9, the Powdered Caffeine Control and Education Act, now Public Act 99-00250, prohibits anyone from selling, offering to sell, giving or providing free samples of powdered pure caffeine to anyone under the age of 18 in Illinois in order to protect their health and safety. A single teaspoon of this substance may contain as much caffeine as 25 cups of coffee. As you may be aware from information provided in a recent Illinois PTA Resolution, caffeine can be a dangerous substance. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and related stimulants by children and adolescents.
  • House Bill 217 (HB217), the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, now known as Public Act 99-0411, protects Illinois youth under the age of 18 from conversion therapy or sexual orientation change efforts by mental health professionals. According to well-respected professional associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy is never recommended and may increase depression and anxiety. This may result in increased rates of substance abuse and self-destructive behavior, including suicide. This statute provides for penalties to anyone found to be in its violation.

Education

  • House Bill 2657, Educator Licensure (an Illinois Vision 20/20 bill), now Public Act 99-0058, will allow Illinois school districts to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and administrators, regardless of the state where individuals received their initial educator license. In addition, this amends the school code to provide that the institute fund may also be used by the State Superintendent of Education to support educator recruitment and retention programs and to provide professional development.
  • House Bill 2683, the Multiple Measure Index Bill, now known as Public Act 99-0193, also an Illinois Vision 20/20 bill, requires that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) develop a system of reward standards for student performance and school improvement for all school districts and their individual schools for those schools that meet specified criteria. The student performance segment will focus on student outcomes and closing the achievement gap within each school district and its individual schools using a Multiple Measure Index and Annual Measurable Objectives set forth in this statute. Rewards will be developed for those schools and school districts which:
    • are high-poverty, high-performing schools that are closing achievement gaps and excelling in academic achievement;
    • have sustained high performance;
    • have substantial growth performance over the 3 years preceding the year in which recognition is awarded;
    • have demonstrated the most progress compared to other schools in Illinois in closing the achievement gap.

Juvenile Justice

  • House Bill 2567 (HB2567) now Public Act 99-0254, amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to provide that a child under the age of 13 shall not be admitted, kept, or detained in a detention facility unless:
    • a local youth service provider has been contacted, and
    • the local youth service provider is unable to accept the child. 
  • House Bill 3718 (HB3718), now Public Act 99-0258, amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to expand juvenile court discretion over the important decision to try children in adult court by limiting automatic transfer, now triggered by age and charged offense. As of January 1, 2016, the juvenile court will have the discretion to make the transfer decision after hearing both sides of the case and reviewing the rehabilitative services available to the youth.

Looking Forward

What lies ahead? The Illinois PTA will continue to advocate for our children on issues concerning education issues, including education funding, children’s health and safety, environmental concerns, juvenile justice issues, as well as on active Resolutions concerning Special Education Issues, Energy Drinks and the Choking Game.

How can you help? Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network to stay engaged on Illinois issues!

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty.