New Year, New Rules, An Overview of New Legislation in Illinois for 2019 Affecting Education

Jan 11, 2019

As I tore away the last page of my 2018 daily calendar, disappointed that I no longer would be greeted each morning with the wit of a New Yorker Magazine cartoon, I resolved to kick off 2019 with an exciting adventure. After some thought, I settled on diving into the over 250 new Illinois laws waiting for us here in 2019! The end result of my adventure? An overview of the new laws affecting the world of education.  

While not exhaustive, this overview will hopefully provide you with a heads-up and some practical guidance on the new laws that may affect your districts this year. Divided into three sections, the overview provides a brief summary of the legislative change, as well as a brief explanation of the practical implications the new legislation may have for Illinois districts. Please note, this overview is not exhaustive, but instead aims to point out the legislative changes that are most likely to impact you in the new year. Inevitably, there will be even more changes made throughout the year; however, here’s to entering the new year ready to tackle whatever legislative change that comes our way.

Cheers to a wonderful 2019!  

Changes Affecting Personnel:

HB 04658:   Amended the School Code’s in-service training program requirements to now require that, at least every two years, all licensed school personnel and administrators who work with kids from kindergarten through 12th grade receive training to allow them to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior in youth, and to be taught appropriate techniques for intervening and referring the youth to more help.

What does this mean for you?   Now, school districts must ensure that not just guidance counselors, teachers, social workers, and administrative personnel are trained, but that all licensed personnel are trained in identifying and dealing with the signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior. Additionally, where the old law only required training for those working with students in grades 7 through 12, the new law requires training for personnel working with kids Kindergarten through 12th grade. This training must be done every two years.

SB 02925:   Added a new provision to the School Code defining a “school resource officer” (SRO) and requiring that, after January 1, 2021, all SROs undergo a required course of training within one (1) year of being assigned to serve as an SRO.   The law enforcement agency providing the school district with an SRO is responsible for providing the school district with a certificate of completion showing that the SRO has completed the required training.

What does this mean for you?  Starting in 2021, school districts will need to make sure they receive a certificate of completion for all existing SROs and newly hired or assigned SROs. Also, with the addition of a statutory definition of an SRO, the Illinois legislature appears to restrict the SRO role to only those individuals currently employed by a law enforcement agency. More legislation on the issue of who can carry a gun inside a school for security purposes may be on the horizon.

SB 03015:   Amends the School Code’s rules for administering asthma medication and epinephrine at school and adds the definition of “undesignated asthma medication,” which permits schools to maintain undesignated prescriptions for asthma medications in case of emergencies. The new amendments provide that a school nurse may administer, or may provide to a student to self-administer, an undesignated asthma medication. This is already permitted under the statute for undesignated epinephrine. Also, now, if a student’s IEP provides that he or she requires epinephrine or asthma medication, a school nurse is permitted to administer such to the student.

What does this mean for you?  Now, as was already the case for undesignated epinephrine, schools may maintain undesignated asthma medications to be used or administered in accordance with a student’s IEP or 504 Plan, an Individual Health Action Plan, an Illinois Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan and Treatment Authorization Form on-file for a student, or for any person the nurse or trained personnel reasonably believes is in need. The prescribing, storing, reporting, and training requirements already in-place for undesignated epinephrine now apply in the same manner to undesignated asthma medication. Finally, if the administration of either epinephrine and/or asthma medication is required for the student to receive a free appropriate public education under the IDEA, it must be designated in the student’s IEP.

Changes Affecting School Governance / Boards of Education:

HB 04768: Added an additional six (6) statements to the oath of office that all school board members are required to take.

What does this mean for you?   Each school board member is required by law to take the oath of office prior to starting his or her term on the Board. Also, most districts have a Board Policy providing further instruction on how the oath is to be administered. At the next Board of Education meeting where new members are sworn in, the members must now recite 6 new, additional statements. Also, if your Board Policy includes the text of the oath, you will need to update your policy (PRESS 2:80). The full text of the new oath can be found here.

SB 02900:   Adds a new provision to the School Code providing that, if a school board had to fill a vacancy on the Board as a result of having no candidates in a congressional township in the most recent election, then the Board must pass a resolution and submit to the voters at the next general election a proposition to elect a new board member at-large, without applying the area of residence requirements to the seat.

What does this mean for you?   In the event your board filled a vacancy for a seat that remained unfilled after an election due to a lack of candidates in the congressional township with the open seat, the Board must pass a resolution and submit a proposition to the voters to elect a board member in the next general election. The candidate for the position will not have to be from the congressional township where the open seat is located. Rather, the seat will be open to any candidate living in the school district and meeting the other eligibility requirements (i.e. age, registered voter, etc.).

SB 02654:   Adds a new requirement to the informational materials schools must provide to parents and guardians when providing information on immunizations, infectious diseases, medication, and other school-related health issues. These materials must be approved by the Department of Public Health.

What does this mean for you?   When the school district distributes information to parents and guardians on immunizations, infectious diseases, medications, and other school-related health issues, it now must also include information on influenza, influenza vaccines, meningococcal disease, and meningococcal vaccines. The required materials should be available from the Department of Public Health.

SB 03411:   Amends the Stalking No Contact Order Act to allow schools (as well as places of worship and places of employment), rather than just individuals, to petition for stalking no contact orders against individuals engaging in conduct on school grounds which may cause a reasonable person to fear for the safety of the school.

What does this mean for you?   Now, a school itself may petition for a stalking no contact order, rather than requiring the individual victim of the stalking to file such petition. If a school believes an individual’s conduct directed at the school would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, the safety of the school, or the safety of a 3rd person, they may have grounds for filing a petition. Importantly, the statute still requires that the stalking be a course of conduct ““ i.e. it must be more than a single act ““ before the behavior will be consider “stalking.”

Changes Affecting Students:

HB 04908:   Amends the School Code to require that students entering 9th grade receive a dental examination.   This previously was only required for students entering kindergarten, second grade, and sixth grade.

What does this mean for you?   The same rules for schools receiving proof of a dental exam still apply to students beginning kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 6th grade. However, schools now must also receive proof of a dental exam for all students entering 9th grade.

SB 02350:   Revises the School Safety Drill Act. The Act now requires schools to conduct at least one law enforcement drill addressing an active threat or an active shooter threat within 90 days after the first day of school each year. It also requires the drill to be done while students are present, and all school personnel must be involved in the drill. Previously, the drill could be done on days students were not present and did not require full staff participation.

What does this mean for you?   Each school year, within 90 days of the school year getting underway, each school building where students are housed MUST conduct a drill addressing active threats or an active shooter within the school.   The drill now MUST be done on days and during times students are normally in the school building. Additionally, the drill MUST involve participation from ALL school personnel and those students who are present at school during the time of the drill.   Administrators and school support personnel may use their discretion to exempt certain students from the drill. Finally, you must have local law enforcement present to observe the drill.  This drill must be done in addition to the bus evacuation drill, the three (3) fire evacuation drills, and the severe weather drill already required by the Act. Finally, the criteria already in-place under the Act for law enforcement drills also applies to the active threat/shooter drill.

SB 03466:   Expands the definition of “Valid causes” of truancy to include the right of a parent to withhold a student from school for the mental, emotional, or physical health or safety of the student. Additionally, it adds requirements schools must comply with prior to reporting a student as a truant.

What does this mean for you?   Parents can now keep their child at home as a “valid cause” and the child will not be considered a truant if the parent disagrees with the placement or services their child is receiving in special education. Moreover, schools are required to hold an IEP meeting or a 504 meeting for any child with a documented disability to address the placement and services in dispute. If the child has been identified as needing an evaluation or the evaluation is already scheduled, the evaluation must be completed, and an eligibility determination must be made before the student can be reported as truant.

Other Changes to Keep In-Mind:

(1)       School boards can no longer limit the number of dual credit courses a student may enroll in or the number of credits a student can receive through dual credit. SB 2527.

(2)       Principal endorsement requirement of 4-years teaching or working in a public/private Illinois school can now also be met by working in a school under the supervision of the Illinois Department of Corrections. HB 5754.

(3)       The joint committee formed to review all teacher evaluations must meet at least once annually to review the effectiveness of the District’s evaluation process. These meetings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. HB 5136.

(4)       The Department of Public Health will create and provide to schools to be distributed, information on the effects of concussions in children and the signs to look for in evaluating a child for a concussion. Also, instructs the ISBE to adopt rules governing accommodations for a student who may have suffered a concussion during an athletic event. HB 4226.

(5)       Local school districts may apply for a grant through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for purchasing equipment that will be solely dedicated to the instruction of occupations in manufacturing. HB 4858.

(6)       All schools must post notices informing their employees and other members of the general public of a helpline that assists any person who is subject to human trafficking. The notice can be posted in a conspicuous and accessible place determined by the administration. HB 4340.

Link to the public notice:

A full list of all the new Illinois laws in place for 2019 can be found here.