Another Year of Legislative Success for the Children of Illinois!

takesactionheader_final_1050px-crop-2From youth safety issues to juvenile justice, from children’s health to readiness for college and the work-force, from childhood hunger to an interim budget in a year of fiscal deadlock, the Illinois PTA has advocated successfully for all our children. The highlights are below. Illinois PTA will continue to advocate for every child, and urges you to join us this fall for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on November 15, 2016.

Children’s Health and Safety

We have had successes in responses to children’s allergies and asthma, concussions, and childhood hunger.

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors: With as much as 25% of first time anaphylactic reactions occurring in a school setting, we cannot stress the need enough for the availability of undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors. House Bill 4462, Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, now Public Act 99-0711, expands the protections currently in place to include additional circumstances in which a school district, public, or nonpublic school may have a supply of undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors available in a secure location so that they are accessible before, during, and after school, including while being transported on a school bus. The statue also provides for the training of state police in the administration of epinephrine auto-injectors. The expansions provided in PA 99-0711 will help prevent injury from a severe allergic reaction by Illinois children.

Asthma: On a related issue, students with asthma will now have additional safety measures in place. House Bill 6333, School Code–Asthma Action Plan, now Public Act 99-0843, provides for additional safety protocols with the requirements that:

  • the State Board of Education work with statewide professional organizations that have asthma management expertise to develop a model asthma episode emergency response protocol;
  • each school district, charter school, and nonpublic school adopt an asthma episode emergency response protocol before 1/1/2017 that includes the components of the State Board’s model;
  • all school personnel who work with pupils to complete a program every two years concerning asthma management, prevention, and emergency response; and that,
  • each school district, public, charter, or nonpublic school request an asthma action plan from the parents or guardians of a pupil with asthma each year.

Concussions: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 3.9 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the US annually. They are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. House Bill 4365, IHSA Concussion Reporting, now Public Act 99-0831, amends the Interscholastic Athletic Organization Act to provide for the enhanced reporting of student-athletes who have sustained a concussion. Beginning with the current school year, all member schools that have certified athletic trainers are required to complete a monthly report on student athletes at that school who sustained a concussion during a school-sponsored activity that is either overseen by the athletic trainer or when the athletic director is made aware of a concussion sustained by a student during a school-sponsored (with student names removed). Beginning in 2017-2018, the data is to be compiled from the prior school year into annual report to the Illinois General Assembly. Is the legislature considering further protections for our children once they receive these reports? We will continue to monitor this topic for future legislation.

Childhood Hunger: Children don’t do well in school if they’re hungry. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school, and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence. Approximately 1 in 5 Illinois children are affected by hunger. Senate Bill 2393, Childhood Hunger–Breakfast, now Public Act 99-0850, is intended to help with this ongoing issue. PA 99-0850, amends the Childhood Hunger Relief Act to provide for “breakfast after the bell” program beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, according to a model that best suits its students. This Act also provides that the Illinois State Board of Education is to:

  • collaborate with school districts and nonprofit organizations knowledgeable about equity, the opportunity gap, hunger and food security issues, and best practices for improving student access to school breakfast;
  • distribute guidelines for the program’s implementation; and,
  • post a list of opportunities for philanthropic support of school breakfast programs on its website.

The statute also allows schools and school districts to opt out under certain circumstances.

Education

Two new statutes have been enacted to address student achievement in Illinois.

College and Workforce Readiness: The lack of readiness for college and/or the workforce is a concern for parents, students, and employers across Illinois. Approximately one-half of Illinois high school graduates entering as full-time freshmen in Illinois public community colleges require remedial education. House Bill 5729, creates the Post-Secondary and Workforce Readiness Act (Public Act 99-0674). The statute is a plan to address these student achievement concerns by creating:

  • a postsecondary career expectations model to be adopted for public school students in grades 8 through 12, defining activities where school districts, parents, and community-based organizations should support students, and the related knowledge students should have;
  • a pilot program for competency-based high school graduation requirements;
  • transitional mathematics courses from high school to college level;
  • a statewide panel that will include ISBE to recommend competencies for reading, and communication and strategies for achieving this in high school coursework; and,
  • College and Career Pathway Endorsements and State Distinction programs to provide student incentives and encourage their exploration and development.

After-School Program Grants: Senate Bill 2407, Department of Human Services–Teen REACH Grant Program, now Public Act 99-0700, amends the Department of Human Services Act to provide that, subject to appropriation, DHS will establish a establish a competitive state grant program—Teen Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Caring, and Hope (Teen REACH)—to support local communities in providing after-school opportunities for youth 6 to 17 years old that will improve their likelihood for future success, provide positive choices, reduce at-risk behaviors, and develop career goals. These grants are to be awarded to community-based agencies, in which successful grantees are to plan and implement activities to address outcomes in 6 core areas: improvement of educational performance; life skills education; parent education; recreation, sports, cultural, and artistic activities; the development of positive adult mentors; and service learning opportunities. 

Juvenile Justice

We have been successful in advocating for justice-involved youth in relation to the reporting of serious incidents impacting their health and well-being, legal representation, and expungement of records.

Critical Incidents While in the Juvenile Justice System: With the passage of House Bill 114, Juvenile Court–Critical Incident Report, now Public Act 99-0664, provides additional protections to a minor who is committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. These protections include the Department notifying the court in writing of a critical incident which involves a serious risk to the life health or well-being of the youth within 10 days of the incident. The report is to include the actions the Department took in response to the incident.

Legal Representation for Youth: Research has shown that children do not understand the “Miranda warning,” do not understand the implications of making a statement to the police, and are more likely than adults to make a false confession. Senate Bill 2370, Juvenile Court–Counsel Representation, now Public Act 99-0882, requires that:

  • children under 15 be represented by legal counsel during custodial interrogations for homicide and sex offenses,
  • all interrogations of youths under age 18 for any felony and misdemeanor sex offenses be videotaped, and
  • police read children the new Miranda-type warning detailed in the statute.

While Illinois PTA does not believe this bill went far enough in protecting the rights of children in police custody, it is a move in the right direction.

Expungement of Juvenile Records: House Bill 5017, Juvenile Court–Expungement, now Public Act 99-0835, amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to provide that whenever a person has been arrested, charged, or adjudicated delinquent for an incident that occurred before she or he turned 18 that would be an offense if committed by an adult, that person may petition the court for the expungement of related law enforcement and juvenile court proceedings. Once the related juvenile court proceedings have ended, the court is to order the expungement of all related records in the possession of the Department of State Police, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, and law enforcement agencies for those circumstance specified under the act.

State Budget

Thank you to those of you who helped seek the passage of an adequate and sustainable budget in Illinois in a year of grid-lock and finger-pointing. Over 2,000 messages were sent by Illinois PTA supporters to legislators, the governor, and local newspapers regarding the need to support education, after school programs, and services for families and children with an adequate and sustainable budget. This created an atmosphere where there was at least some movement in a difficult year: the passage of a stop-gap budget with Senate Bill 2047 which provided funding through December, including for school funding, the Illinois State Board of Education, and state colleges. Is this enough? Absolutely not. We need an adequate and sustainable fully-funded budget to ensure that our children and Illinois families thrive and that schools, colleges and universities, and public service providers can plan for the future.

How can you help? Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network to stay up to date on Illinois issues and plan to join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

PTA Convention 2016 LogoAt the 2016 National PTA Convention in Orlando, four resolutions were adopted by the convention delegates. PTA resolutions and position statements are official documents outlining the opinion, will, or intent of the association to address national problems, situations, or concerns that affect children and youth and that require national action to seek solutions to the issue. They serve an important purpose in formalizing and focusing the positions of the association on various important and relevant issues. The four resolutions adopted were:

Electronic Cigarettes and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Youth

The resolution on electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems focused on the growing use of electronic cigarettes among children and youth as well as the increased poisoning of young children who come into contact with the concentrated nicotine liquids used in the e-cigarettes. The resolution calls for PTA to advocate for legislation restricting the advertising, marketing, and sale of e-cigarettes to youth under 18 as well as restrictions or prohibitions on using e-cigarettes in public places. The resolution also calls on PTA units at all levels to educate youth, parents, school boards, and local officials on the dangers of e-cigarettes.

The first part of the resolution, dealing with restrictions of sales and marketing, has largely been accomplished with the recent issuing of regulations by the Food & Drug Administration. In addition, Illinois PTA has been covering this topic and providing information on it for over 18 months, and we will continue to do so.

Homework: Quality Over Quantity

The resolution on homework recognizes the value of homework as an important part of a child’s education. However, there is a growing perception among parents that the homework load on children has increased in recent years, and research indicates that for the early grades that is true. The resolution notes that homework that requires parental input and supervision or additional resources such as a readily-available internet connection can further increase the achievement gap and create inequities based on family resources.

The resolution calls for PTA support teachers, schools, and districts in promoting meaningful homework and using evidence-based guidelines in assigning homework. The resolution also encourages PTAs to advocate for school districts, school boards, and administrators to review or implement homework policies that address quality, quantity, and equity concerns in their district.

Recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Individuals as a Protected Class

The resolution on recognizing LGBTQ individuals as a protected class notes that every child should feel safe at school. Thirty percent of LGBTQ students have missed a day of school because they didn’t feel safe going to school, and LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied in school, more likely to be homeless, and more likely to become involved in the Juvenile Justice System. The resolution also notes that harassment and bullying policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are associated with students feeling safer, lover levels of bullying, decreased incidents of sexual harassment related to sexual orientation, increased teacher and staff intervention, and a greater reporting of incidents.

The resolution calls for PTA to support recognizing LGBTQ as a protected group in current civil rights legislation, Department of Education guidance, and Department of Justice guidance. The resolution also encourages PTAs to review school bullying policies and to support amendments that specifically address sexual orientation and gender identification/expression as they relate to harassment and bullying. Finally, the resolution call for PTAs to advocate for additional professional development for teachers and staff on supporting all students and incorporating age-appropriate, medically accurate, and culturally sensitive information on LGBTQ issues into health and other appropriate curricula.

As noted in a convention workshop on supporting LGBTQ students and families, addressing this issue is about changing behaviors, not beliefs. It is about ensuring that every child feels safe and supported at school and that every family feels welcomed. The revised National PTA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit has a section specifically devoted to supporting LGBTQ children and families to help PTAs address this issue.

Water Safety and Instruction

The resolution on water safety and instruction states that drowning is the third highest cause of death of youth 19 and younger and that over half of the drowning incidents for children 9 and younger occur in residential settings.

The resolution calls for PTAs to educate families, students, school personnel, and communities on water safety and swimming instruction. PTAs are also called to advocate for consistent, quality standards for water safety and swimming instruction and for policies and legislation to make such programs accessible for all students. Illinois PTA has addressed water safety in the past and noted in a recent One Voice Illinois post that a free pool safety sheet is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in both English and Spanish.

News from the Illinois PTA Convention—Resolutions

conv logo 2Resolutions are how PTAs can make a difference for every child in Illinois. Many current policies and laws that have made a difference in the lives of children, youth, and families began as a resolution, often from a local PTA unit: establishing a Juvenile Justice System, ensuring complete vision exams for children before starting school, limitations on the use of cell phones while driving, and the Parents’ Guide to the Illinois Graduated Driver’s License System are just a few of the many ways PTAs have made a difference.

At the 114th Convention of the Illinois PTA delegates passed the Resolution on Young Adults Involved in the Justice System. This resolution, noting that scientific research on brain development shows that a young adult’s brain is not fully developed until approximately age 25, creates a committee to study whether Illinois should treat those ages 18 to 21 differently from adults in the justice system. The committee will consider whether separate diversion and sentencing options for those ages 18 to 21 or raising the age of the juvenile justice system to 21 are appropriate. The committee will present its recommendations at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention.

Other action on resolutions at the 114th Illinois PTA Convention was to designate the 2013 resolutions on Prevention of Asphyxiation Games (Choking Game) and Energy Drinks  as continuing positions. A resolutions implementation report was also provided to convention delegates detailing actions the Illinois PTA has taken on previously adopted resolutions.

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.