AMENDMENT TO BULLYING LEGISLATION PROVIDES BREATHING ROOM FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS

July 16, 2014

By Parker R. Himes

At our Administrator’s Workshop last month, we reported on House Bill 5707 and the strict timelines it would impose upon school officials responsible for investigating and responding to bullying complaints. We are pleased to report that a late Floor Amendment has relaxed those timelines to give school officials more flexibility and discretion.  Through the amendment, the General Assembly responded to concerns about the rigid nature of the original timelines and allows school districts more leeway concerning the timing of investigations and reports of instances of bullying.  The Governor signed this bill into law as Public Act 98-0669.

Now, instead of requiring an investigation to be concluded within 10 days of the receipt of a report of bullying, the law calls for districts to make “all reasonable efforts to complete the investigation within 10 days.”  Further, rather than requiring a report to the principal or his designee within 2 days of the receipt of a report of bullying, the principal or designee should receive the report “as soon as possible after the [initial] report is received.”  The provision requiring an investigation to begin within 1 school day of the receipt of a bullying report was also removed from the law. Finally, the provision requiring a report to parents of students involved in bullying incidents within 5 days of the principal or designee receiving a report of bullying was also changed.  Now, school districts must provide those parents “information about the investigation and an opportunity to meet with the principal or school administrator or designee” to discuss the investigation and its results.

Bullying remains a hot topic around the State. Your attorneys at Scariano, Himes and Petrarca continue to monitor this area and will keep you abreast of any new developments. Should you confront a bullying issue in your school district, we recommend contacting an attorney at the Firm so we may help you navigate this complex and ever-changing area of the law.

Protocols for Reporting Sexual Assault/Abuse

April 12, 2012

By Darcee C. Williams

In 2009, the Lake County Board passed a resolution authorizing and supporting the establishment of a Lake County Sexual Assault Coordinating Council to promote cooperation, coordination and communication between the agencies and individuals investigating and handling sexual assault and sexual abuse cases in Lake County, Illinois.  The Council is comprised of the Lake County State’s Attorney, the Chief Judge of Lake County, the Chairman of the Lake County Board, the Director of the Zacharias Center, the Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools, the Lake County Sheriff and Scariano, Himes and Petrarca’s, Lynn Himes, among others.  As part of its duties and responsibilities, the Council was charged with developing protocols for dealing with sexual assault and sexual abuse.  To that end, the Council developed Protocols for Reporting Sexual Assault/Abuse for school employees who are approached by students or others with information on sexual assault or abuse.  The protocols are designed to help district employees respond to disclosures appropriately.

The protocols set forth the guidelines for first responders to follow when they receive information regarding sexual assault or abuse.  The protocols also advise what actions must be taken by a particular school district employee, depending on their position, and provide helpful suggestions on handling disclosures and reporting abuse and neglect to DCFS.  Lastly, the protocols provide contact information for Lake County resources available to provide support in situations of sexual abuse/assault.

We recommend that all Lake County school districts follow the Lake County Sexual Assault Coordinating Council’s Protocols for Reporting Sexual Assault/Abuse and publicize the protocols to school district employees.  The Protocols for Reporting Sexual Assault/Abuse are available by clicking here or by contacting the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office at 847/377-3000 or statesattorney@lakecountyil.gov.

If you have any questions about the protocols, please do not hesitate to contact Lynn Himes at 312/565-3100 or ahimes@edlawyer.com.