When State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) learned that hundreds of students attending Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had been sexually abused by teachers and other school employees over the last decade, he went to work on bipartisan legislation that addressed what he called “a complete failure of systems that should ensure student safety during the school day.” This week SB 456 received unanimous approval in the House of Representatives.
SB 456 mandates comprehensive reforms to school district policies and procedures that govern sexual abuse reporting and investigations. The need for the reforms came to light after a 2018 Chicago Tribune investigative report uncovered over 500 cases of sexual abuse at CPS over the last decade.
“When children go to school, their parents should be confident that the adults in the building will keep their kids safe,” said Reick. “I was disgusted to learn that the very people who were charged with ensuring student safety were actually abusing them.”
Through SB 456, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) would be granted greater powers to remove abusers from schools. ISBE could immediately suspend the license of any educator charged with a sex crime or Class X felony instead of waiting for a conviction as prescribed in current law.
The bill would also provide school districts with the ability to fire employees who negligently or willfully fail to report suspected abuse of a student to the proper authorities when abuse is witnessed. “It was important to me that this provision be included in the bill, because current law did not punish those who negligently failed to report abuse,” Reick said.
SB 456 also addresses a practice known as “passing the trash,” by providing school districts with a greater ability to share information about teachers charged with misconduct with other school districts. The bill now moves to the Governor for his signature.