Implementation Date of New Concussion Law Extended

December 10, 2015 

By Darcee C. Williams

On August 3, 2015, Senate Bill 7 was signed into law (Public Act 99-245) creating the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act.  The Act adds section 22-80 to the Illinois School Code (105 ILCS 5/22-80) and generally requires concussion education, the appointment of a Concussion Oversight Team to develop return to learn and return to play protocols and requires the Board to develop a written school-specific emergency action plans.  The law also requires certain individuals to undergo concussion training.  A school district must implement the Act if it offers interscholastic athletic activities or interscholastic athletics under the direction of a coach (volunteer or school employee), athletic director, or band leader. 

 The new concussion law had an immediate effective date.  However, on November 30, 2015, Governor Rauner signed legislation (Senate Bill 219; Public Act 99-486) into law extending the implementation date of the new concussion law to the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.  Accordingly, school districts and other affected organizations do not have to scramble to comply with the new concussion law.  Nonetheless, we recommend that school districts begin implementing the law’s requirements in the upcoming months to the extent practicable, including compliance with the law’s training requirements and taking steps toward developing emergency action plans. 

 The IASB has developed a Checklist for Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act available on their website.  Implementation guidance is also available from Lurie Children’s Hospital, which supported passage of the new concussion legislation.  Lurie has developed a publication titled Return to Learn after a Concussion:  A Guide for Teachers and School Professionals available on their website.  Lurie also has a free 30-minute online educational module of the content outlined in the Return to Learn Guide.  

 Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the Illinois High School Associationhave useful information on the recognition, response, and prevention of concussions.

 At our annual client seminar on March 5, 2016, we will discuss and answer questions regarding the new concussion law.  In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding the new concussion law or would like a copy of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca’s Concussion Policy and Procedures, please contact Darcee Williams or Anthony Scariano

Illinois Adopts New Requirement for Student Religious Exemptions from Vaccinations

 August 24, 2015

By Parker R. Himes and James A. Petrungaro

             On August 3, 2015, Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 99-0249, which adds a requirement that parents or guardians of students claiming a religious exemption from vaccinations must complete and submit a Certificate of Religious Exemption before the exemption will be honored.  The Illinois Department of Public Health will make available the necessary certificate.

            Prior to adoption of the new legislation, parents or guardians of students claiming a religious exemption from vaccination were merely required to submit a signed statement of objection to the district.  Illinois now requires a standardized Certificate of Religious Exemption to claim a religious exemption from vaccinations.

            Notably, the title of the new form is a bit misleading.  The Certificate does not require, for example, a priest, rabbi or other religious leader to confirm the family’s religious beliefs.  Rather, the Certificate requires that the student’s health care provider explain in detail to the parents or guardians the risk to the student and to the population as a whole that would arise from abstaining from vaccinations.  After informing the parents or guardians of the risks, the health care provider must sign the Certificate confirming that risk information was provided to the parents or guardians.  The health care provider does not authorize the legitimacy of the family’s religious exemption.  In addition, the Certificate reflects the parents’ or guardians’ understanding that their child may be excluded from school in the case of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak or exposure. 

            Parents or guardians must submit the Certificate to their child’s district prior to the child entering kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade.  The Department of Public Health states that this new requirement will be in place for religious exemption requests beginning October 16, 2015.  The Illinois State Board of Education and the Department of Public Health will soon make the Certificate available on their websites.

            Should you find yourself confronted with an issue concerning student vaccinations, please contact an attorney at the Firm so we may guide you through the new process.

New Changes to the Law Affecting Epinephrine Administration in Schools

October 22, 2014

By Anthony Scariano III

Effective August 1, 2014, the Illinois General Assembly amended the School Code to allow school districts to obtain “undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors,” if they wish, for administration on or around school premises. An undesignated epinephrine auto-injector is one that is prescribed in the name of a school district, as opposed to a particular student.  These auto-injectors are commonly known as EpiPens.

A school district, through its school nurse or “trained personnel,” may provide an undesignated auto-injector to:

  • A student for self-administration, as long as the undesignated auto-injector meets the student’s already- existing prescription that is on file with the school; and
  • Any personnel authorized under a student’s individual health care action plan, Illinois Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan and Treatment Authorization Form, or Section 504 Plan, for administration on the student, as long as the undesignated auto-injector meets the student’s prescription on file.
  • School nurses or “trained personnel” may also administer an undesignated auto-injector to any person that they, in good faith, believe is having an anaphylactic reaction.

“Trained personnel” must complete annual training (on-line or in person), and must also submit proof of certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator operation. The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) will eventually release training resources on its website.

The law also:

  • Requires  schools  to  activate  the  EMS  system  and  notify  certain  people  whenever  epinephrine  is administered, whether undesignated or student-specific; and
  • Requires schools to report certain information about an administration of an undesignated auto-injector to ISBE within three days of an administration.

The importance of legislation that affects the health and well-being of students can never be overstated. Attorneys at Scariano, Himes, and Petrarca are available to assist you as you review policies, procedure, and practices in your school district. Please feel free to contact us if you need any further information regarding the amendments mentioned in this bulletin.

Preparing for Flu Season

 September 3, 2009

After the emergence of the H1N1 virus last spring, many are concerned about the impending flu season.  The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) has produced excellent resources to assist schools in preparing for and responding to influenza during the 2009-2010 school year.  The CDC’s “Guidance for State  and  Local  Public  Health  Officials  and  SchoolAdministrators  for  School  (K-12)  Responses  to Influenza During the 2009-2010 School Year” provides instruction on non-medical ways to decrease the spread of infectious diseases, recommends actions to take this school year and suggests additional responses for conditions of increased influenza severity.  This document is available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools/schoolguidance.htm.

The CDC has also published “Preparing for the Flu (Including 2009 H1N1 Flu): A Communication Toolkit for Schools (Grades K-12),” which includes questions and answers about the CDC’s response guide, fact sheets for school, officials, teachers and parents, and template letters for schools to send to parents.  This publication is available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/schools/toolkit/pdf/schoolflutoolkit.pdf.  The CDC has also made flu prevention posters available on its website at http://www.cdc.gov/germstopper/materials.htm.

The emergence of the H1N1 virus also brought about a great deal of discussion about addressing pandemic illness outbreaks.  To prepare your staff, we recommend adopting policies and procedures for handling a pandemic.  If your district already has such a policy, the start of the school year is a good time to review it with staff to make sure all personnel are working together to minimize the chance of an outbreak.

In developing or reviewing a pandemic policy, school districts need to consider all of the ways a pandemic would affect its operations and policies. For instance, a pandemic policy should:

1.   Address coordination with local and state health departments;

2.   Delineate accountability and responsibility;

3.   Establish a succession plan in case board members or administrators are unable to fulfill their duties;

4.   Provide guidelines for preventing the spread of disease;

5.   Set forth an action plan for all stages of an outbreak (e.g., before, during and after an outbreak);

6.   Address school closure procedures and the impact of closure on wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment during a pandemic;

7.   Develop strategies for remote learning and providing necessary student services (e.g., free and reduced lunch) during school closures;

8.   Establish procedure for identification, segregation, treatment and transportation of sick students and staff;

9.   Encourage early treatment for high-risk individuals;

10. Address central office a operations during a pandemic (e.g., payroll and communication with the school community); and

11. Set forth policies unique to a pandemic for staff and student absences (e.g., use of sick leave during a pandemic and return-to-work policies).

Please  do  not  hesitate to contact your  attorney  at Scariano, Himes  and Petrarca,  Chtd. to develop or review a pandemic policy or to seek counsel regarding response options in the event an outbreak of flu or other illness occurs in your schools.  We also take this time to wish your Board of Education, the Administration and Staff a successful 2009-2010 school year and look forward to assisting you along the way.