10 new Illinois laws affecting schools, colleges
Illinois schools and community colleges will see a number of changes this year with the adoption of new state laws requiring active shooter safety drills, high school dental exams, and teaching black history, among other mandates.
The new rules, which took effect Jan. 1, affect governing policies, classroom programs, funding and student wellness. Here are some examples:
Schools must disseminate a brochure, published by the Illinois Department of Public Health, to educate families about the effects of concussions in children and how to look for warning signs. The Illinois State Board of Education also must adopt rules for accommodating concussed students.
Illinois legislators mandated concussion protocols for schools in 2015. That law required all high schools and middle schools to administer concussion screening and develop standard procedures to ensure athletes can safely resume sports and classroom activities after an injury. It applies to all public, charter and private schools that participate in interscholastic sports, and all sponsored youth sports.
Keeping teeth clean
All children entering ninth grade at a public, private or parochial high school must have a dental examination. Previously, this was required only of students entering kindergarten, second grade and sixth grade.
Looking both ways
Schools educating students in kindergarten through eighth grade must teach them about methods for preventing and avoiding traffic injuries when walking or biking.
All community colleges and public universities must offer a course on black history, including topics such as the history of the African slave trade, slavery in America and the vestiges of slavery. Like public school districts, colleges and universities can meet the requirement by offering an online course.
School districts and community colleges may apply for Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grants for the purpose of buying land, building facilities and purchasing equipment dedicated solely to the instruction of manufacturing occupations.
High school students can enroll in as many dual-credit courses as they please. There is no limit on the number of dual-credit courses a student may take or how many credits a student may earn. If a school district establishes an online learning program, the school board cannot limit which students may participate in the program, the number of online courses a student may enroll in, or the number of credits a student may receive from online courses.
Out-of-state students and students who have completed eighth grade can enroll in the Aurora-based Illinois Math and Science Academy by paying out-of-state tuition. IMSA's tuition-free residential educational program currently enrolls 650 students, and admission is highly competitive. Now, no more than 25 percent of the academy's student body may be composed of students who are not Illinois residents.
The Illinois Department of Human Services must design, coordinate, and fund prevention, early intervention, treatment and other recovery support services for substance use disorders. Services must be accessible and address the needs of at-risk individuals and their families. Among the changes in the law is the department must cooperate with and help schools in establishing substance use disorder prevention programs and preparing curriculum materials for all grade levels.
Active shooter drills
All schools must conduct at least one active shooter safety drill led by law enforcement personnel yearly within 90 days of the first day of school. All school personnel and students present at the time of the drill must participate.
If a school board fills a vacancy due to a lack of candidates for election, the district's voters can elect a board member without restriction by area of residence in the district at the next general election.