SCHOOL DISCIPLINE REFORMED

September 10, 2015

 By Darcee C. Williams and Anthony Scariano III

On August 24, 2015, Governor Rauner signed Senate Bill 100 into law (Public Act 99-0456) making significant changes to how school districts discipline students beginning in the 2016- 2017 school year.  Senate Bill 100 amends various sections of the School Code as follows: 

             1.         Parent-teacher advisory committees: Parent-teacher advisory committees are required to establish policy guidelines on bullying prevention as set forth in section 27-23.7 of the School Code (in addition to guidelines on student discipline and school searches). Similarly, school boards and their parent-teacher advisory committees are nowrequired to conduct an annual review of student discipline policies, the implementation of those policies, and any other factors related to the safety of their schools, students, and staff.

             2.         Relationships with law enforcement: School districts are encouraged to create memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies that clearly define law enforcement’s role in schools in accordance with section 10-22.6 of the School Code (referring to the permissible relationship between local law enforcement and schools with respect to conducting searches).

             3.         Written decisions to expel:  A board’s written expulsion decision must detail the specific reasons why removing the student from the learning environment is in the best interest of the school. The expulsion decision must also include a rationale as to the specific duration of the expulsion.

             4.         Written decisions to suspend: A board’s or superintendent’s written suspension decision must detail the specific act of gross disobedience or misconduct resulting in the suspension. The decision also must include a rationale as to the specific duration of the suspension.

             5.         Excluding a student from school as a method of discipline (out-of-school suspensions and expulsions): School officials are required to limit the number of school exclusions “to the greatest extent practicable, and it is recommended that they use them only for legitimate educational purposes.” Non-exclusionary discipline should be considered prior to using school exclusions as methods of discipline.

             6.         Zero-tolerance policies: School districts are prohibited from instituting zero tolerance policies that require suspensions or expulsions for particular behaviors unless otherwise required by Federal law or the School Code, such as the School Code’s requirement that a student who brings a firearm to school shall be expelled for a period of not less than one year (105 ILCS 5/10-22).

             7.         Out-of-school suspensions for 3 days or less: School districts may impose out of school suspensions for 3 days or less only if the student’s continuing presence in school would “pose a threat to school safety or a disruption to other students’ learning opportunities.” Determining such threats shall be done on a case-by-case basis by a school board or its designee. Officials are required to make all reasonable efforts to resolve such threats, address such disruptions, and minimize the length of suspensions “to the greatest extent practicable.”

             8.         Out-of-school suspensions that last longer than 3 days, expulsions, and disciplinary removals to alternative schools: A school district may impose out of school suspensions that lasts longer than 3 days, expulsions and disciplinary removals to alternative schools only if other appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary interventions have been exhausted and the student’s continuing presence in school would either: (i) pose a threat to the safety of other students, staff, or members of the school community; or (ii) substantially disrupt, impede, or interfere with the operation of the school (which should also be determined on a case-by-case bases by school officials). School officials are tasked with determining whether “appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary interventions have been exhausted” before removing the student from school.  Like out-of-school suspensions for 3 days or less, school officials are required to make all reasonable efforts to resolve threats, address disruptions, and minimize the length of exclusions “to the greatest extent practicable.” Written suspension or expulsion decisions must include documentation explaining whether other interventions were attempted or whether it was determined that there were no other appropriate and available interventions.

             9.         The provision of “appropriate and available” support services: For students who are suspended out-of-school for longer than 4 school days, a school district must provide “appropriate and available” support services. School officials are tasked with determining what constitutes “appropriate and available” support services. Written suspension decisions must include documentation explaining whether such services are to be provided or whether it was determined that there are no such appropriate and available services. It is within the discretion of the school district to refer expelled students to such services. Districts must have policies that address the facilitation of re-engaging students who are suspended out-of-school, expelled, or returning from an alternative school setting.

             10.       Make up work: School districts must create a policy by which suspended students, including those who are suspended from school buses and do not have alternate transportation to school, have the opportunity to make up work for equivalent academic credit. Parents/guardians are responsible for notifying the school of a lack of alternate transportation.

             11.       Professional development: Schools are required to “make reasonable efforts” to provide ongoing professional development to teachers, administrators, school board members, SRO’s and staff on the adverse consequences of school exclusion and justice-system involvement, effective classroom management strategies, culturally responsive discipline, and developmentally appropriate disciplinary methods that promote positive and healthy school climates.

            12.       Dropping out: Officials are prohibited from advising or encouraging students to drop out voluntarily due to behavioral or academic difficulties.

             13.       Fines/Fees: Students may not be issued a monetary fine or fee as a disciplinary consequence. However, requiring a student to provide restitution for lost, stolen, or damaged property is not prohibited.

 Although the new law does not become effective until September 15, 2016, school districts should begin preparing to amend their policies, procedures and practices with regard to student discipline.  If you have any questions regarding Senate Bill 100 or its implementation at your district, please do not hesitate to contact us.