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.

Governor Signs Two More Illinois PTA-Supported Bills

Governor Rauner continues to take action on bills that were passed by the legislature this past spring, including two more that were supported by the Illinois PTA.

Multiple Measure Index Bill

House Bill 2683, the Multiple Measure Index Bill, now known as Public Act 99-0193, was signed into law on July 30, 2015 by Governor Rauner.

As a result of Public Act 99-0193, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will 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.

For schools, the ISBE will implement a system of rewards for those schools and school districts that recognizes:

  • High-poverty, high-performing schools that are closing achievement gaps and excelling in academic achievement;
  • Schools that have sustained high performance;
  • Schools that have substantial growth performance over the 3 years preceding the year in which recognition is awarded;
  • Schools that have demonstrated the most progress compared to other schools in Illinois in closing the achievement gap.

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. This will include the school’s performance in terms of both academic success (including measures of college and career readiness) and equity (including the academic growth and college and career readiness of each school’s subgroups of students).

This was one of several bills endorsed by Illinois Vision 20/20. The Illinois PTA is a supporter of Illinois Vision 20/20, including the vision that Illinois adopt a differentiated accountability model that focuses on continuous improvement, recognizes the diversity of struggling schools, and eliminates achievement gaps across the state. The Illinois PTA platform includes support for the use of a growth-based accountability model when reporting student assessment and the measurement of school success as required by federal mandate and in conjunction with state mandated assessments.

Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act

Additional safety protections for young athletes are now law: Senate Bill 7, the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, is now Public Act 99-2455, signed by Governor Rauner on August 3, 2015. With the enactment of this law, Illinois youth will be further protected 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.

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 3,900,000 sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the USA annually. Continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of a head injury leaves a young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death.

Even with recognized return-to-play standards for concussions and head injuries, some affected youth athletes are 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.

Join the Take Action Network

Are you missing out on our legislative updates and action alerts? Join the Illinois PTA Take Action network.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

One of the important business items at the National PTA Convention is adoption of resolutions. 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 require national action to seek resolution on the issue. They serve an important purpose in formalizing and focusing the positions of the association on various important and relevant issues.

At the 2015 National PTA Convention, three resolutions were considered:

All three resolutions were adopted as originally written or with minor amendments.

Preventing Solicitation of Adult Products to Minors

The resolution on preventing the solicitation of adult products to minors focused on advertising targeting children for adult products, as research indicates that such advertising has a significant effect on children’s decision making about such products.

The resolution directs the National PTA and its constituent associations to support legislation that would prohibit knowingly providing information that would be harmful to minors or selling materials to minors that are illegal as well as legislation that would penalize those who violate online solicitation laws. Such products include but are not limited to pornography, tobacco, electronic cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and gambling. Marijuana was explicitly added to the list of items illegal for minors at convention since some states have begun legalizing its use for adults. The resolution also directs PTA to work with state, federal, and other agencies to educate families, schools, and communities on tools and services to help prevent the illegal solicitation of children.

Restraint and Seclusion

The resolution on restraint and seclusion focused on the use of such practices to control students. The use of restraint and seclusion on children in public schools by untrained school personnel has resulted in injury, trauma, and in some cases death. The resolution directs the PTA to take five specific actions:

  • Support legislation, regulations, policies, and programs that emphasize the use of positive or non-aversive interventions, thereby limiting the use of restraint and seclusion.
  • Support legislation, regulations, policies, and programs that ensure the safety of children in emergency cases where restraint and seclusion is necessary.
  • Use educational literature, programs, and projects to educate the school community and parents about the risks of excessive or inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion by untrained school personnel.
  • Support legislation, regulations, policies, and programs that provide for the use of restraint and seclusion only as a last resort for emergency situations (i.e., an unanticipated and already occurring event that places the individual or others in imminent danger of physical harm) and not as a substitute for comprehensive school-wide supports and accommodations. The use of restraint and seclusion is to end as soon as the immediate danger of harm has ended.
  • PTA will advocate for pre-emptive engagement and education of parents of all children who may be subject to restraint and seclusion regarding its emergency use.

Sexual Harassment

The resolution on sexual harassment notes that 40% of middle and high school students report being victims of sexual violence or sexual harassment, and the most common location of such harassment is at school. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 addresses discrimination on the basis of sex including sexual harassment or sexual violence, but it only applies to institutions that receive federal funding and does not require prevention strategies or support services for victims.

In response, this resolution calls on the PTA to support strengthening Title IX and other federal, state, and local laws that identify, prohibit, and address the effects of sexual harassment and sexual violence. The PTA will also collaborate with school administrations and community partners to ensure that every school:

  • Provides support services for victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
  • Presents awareness and prevention programs that address sexual harassment and sexual violence affecting students.
  • Includes training on the responsibilities of educational institutions as well as the rights of victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence under Title IX and other laws and regulations.

Next Steps

Since these resolutions call for PTA to support legislation, you can find out more about them by joining National PTA’s Take Action Network. The network will send you updates when legislation is pending on issues of concern and makes it simple to contact your legislators with prepared talking points on the issue. Illinois PTA has a similar Legislative Network that you can join to follow issues at the state level. Sign up for both networks today to support your child and every child by adding your voice to PTA’s one voice.

Social and Emotional Learning Pays Off

homepage4In 2009, Illinois PTA convention delegates adopted a resolution stating that based on Illinois PTA’s legislative positions, we would:

  • actively distribute information on and promote the inclusion of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) content, skills, evaluation and assessment standards within school curricula as has been developed by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE);
  • encourage and support the education of students, parents, teachers, administrators and legislators in SEL working in a collaborative manner with other organizations of similar interest; and
  • seek and support increasing the efforts of the Illinois State Board of Education to educate local school districts in the importance and requirements to implement SEL standards.

Since then, Illinois PTA has worked and partnered with cooperating agencies such as MHAI (Mental Health America, Illinois) and ICMHP (Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership) to bring attention to the benefits of Social and Emotional learning to schools, communities and parent groups across the state.

Education Week recently published an article on a study by Columbia University on the economic value of SEL. In the study, researchers considered the economic returns of six SEL interventions—from learning and literacy programs to combat aggression and violence to the skills that lead to better student engagement in their studies. The results were impressive: all of the SEL programs studied provided significant benefits that exceeded costs. The average return for the six interventions showed that every dollar invested in SEL programs returned more than 11 dollars in benefits. Be sure to check out the full article for additional information.