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updated: 2/28/2013 7:50 PM

Kirk's bill joins Moylan's to combat bullying, hazing

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  • U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk

       U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
By Kerry Lester
Political Editor
klester@dailyherald.com

For the second time in a week, a suburban lawmaker has introduced legislation to combat bullying and hazing in schools.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, along with Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, Thursday announced the "Safe Schools Improvement Act," which would require schools that receive federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment and encourage them to implement effective prevention programs to respond to incidents of bullying and harassment.

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Kirk noted in a statement that he was proud to work to help "schools prevent bullying before it starts and to provide guidance supporting proper behavior."

According to the legislation, which is supported by the Illinois Education Association and the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning, the code of conduct schools would have to adopt must address bullying based on a student's actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. The bill also would require states to collect information reported by school districts on incidents and report this information to the Department of Education. This data would have to be readily available to the public so that parents and the local community could know what is happening in their schools.

Kirk's legislation comes a day after State Rep. Marty Moylan's anti-hazing plan was approved 15-0 by an Illinois House committee, sending the proposal to the full House for further debate.

The Des Plaines Democrat's plan says school officials who know of hazing and don't report it to authorities can themselves be charged with misdemeanor hazing.

School districts already are mandated to report suspected cases of child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. But after high-profile hazing locally at both Maine West High School in Des Plaines and Hoffman Estates High School, he wanted to push something he thought might deter hazing in the future.

Allegations surfaced last fall that senior members of the Maine West High School varsity boys soccer team hazed freshman teammates. In Hoffman Estates, members of the boys' varsity basketball team were accused of hazing fellow students off campus in late November.

District 207 has fired two Maine West soccer coaches -- head boys varsity coach Michael Divincenzo and freshman coach Emilio Rodriguez -- for not doing enough to stop the hazing. DCFS has validated several allegations of abuse and neglect against Divincenzo and Rodriguez and added their names to a state list of child abusers accessible to employers.

No criminal charges were filed in the Hoffman Estates case, and a DCFS investigation determined an initial allegation of sexual misconduct was unfounded.

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