In Illinois, during the 2014-2015 school year, there were over 340,644 suspensions, expulsions, and transfers to alternative schools in lieu of other disciplinary measures. Black students represented approximately 45% of the students impacted by these practices,even though black students constituted only 17.5% of the student population.
"Reducing the use of exclusionary school discipline requires a fundamental shift in school climate."
Here in Illinois, several recent legislative efforts are serving as catalysts for statewide reform:
Public Act 98-1102 increases accountability of school districts by requiring the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to compile and publically release data regarding each school district’s rates of suspensions, expulsions, and transfers to alternative schools. This data should be disaggregated by subgroups (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency, incident type and duration). ISBE will monitor those districts with grossly high and inequitable discipline numbers.
P.A. 98-1102, (effective Aug. 26, 2014), was first introduced in the Illinois Senate as SB 2793.
Public Act 99-0456, which went into effect on September 15, 2016, requires substantive changes to school discipline practices and policies, including the elimination of any broad-based use of zero tolerance policies. In addition to other requirements, schools must make substantial efforts to consider “appropriate and available” alternatives to exclusionary discipline, ensuring that suspension, expulsion, and school transfers are a measure of last resort.
P.A. 99-0456, (effective Sept. 15, 2016), was first introduced in the Illinois Senate as SB 100.
Public Act 100-105, which becomes effective January 1, 2018, prohibits the expulsion of children from early childhood education programs that receive Illinois State Board of Education grants or are licensed by the Department of Child and Family Services. It applies to school- and community-based programs receiving Early Childhood Block Grant funds (Preschool For All, Prevention Initiative) and licensed child care providers serving children ages 0-5 (specifics will be in licensing standards.
The legislation sets forth a process to ensure that removal is not the first or only option explored. It clarifies that available resources, services, and interventions must be utilized, and that parents must also be engaged at all points of the process. Nothing in the bill shall preclude a parent's or legal guardian's right to voluntarily withdraw his or her child from an early childhood program. A provider can transition a child with challenging behavior from their program only after they have documented that they have tried to meet the child’s needs. Providers must help families plan for the child’s transition to a more appropriate setting; this ‘planned transition’ process is not considered an expulsion. Providers also have to report data related to transitions. In addition, in the case of the determination of a serious safety threat to a child or others, the temporary removal of a child from attendance in group settings may be used, with the clarification that the child must be returned to the group setting as quickly as safety will allow and that the same resources, services, and interventions must be called upon.
The legislation also calls upon the state agencies to identify and make available trainings and topics needed to address the problem, as well as strengthen data collection and dissemination.