State Government

Illinois law to require schools to rethink discipline

DEKALB – A new law will require Illinois schools to develop more measured discipline policies beginning next school year.

A bill signed into law this summer by Gov. Bruce Rauner requires schools to end zero-tolerance policies, limit out-of-school suspensions, address bullying and create a parent-teacher advisory board on school discipline. The law also requires that sending students to alternative schools be a last resort, The DeKalb Daily Chronicle reported.

Thomas Kim, principal of Huntley Middle School in DeKalb, said the new law gives schools a chance to better engage students.

"It highlights the fact that we, as schools, really need to continue to improve our systems so that proactively we find ways to intervene and create measures that prevent us from getting to that point," Kim said.

The National School Boards Association has said out-of-school suspensions can be bad for students because they remove them from a learning environment and often result in them being unsupervised.

Data obtained by the newspaper show that schools in DeKalb District 428, Sycamore School District 427 and Genoa-Kingston School District 424 mostly dealt with misconduct through in-school discipline. DeKalb High School gave 146 students out-of-school suspensions last school year for infractions like fighting, drug and alcohol use or possession and having a "dangerous weapon."

District 428 Superintendent Doug Moeller said he supports the idea of curtailing "archaic" out-of-school suspensions.

"When they're home suspended, they're generally out in the street," he said. "I think any way we can reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions is positive."

Joe Burgess, superintendent of District 424, said his district has implemented some of the law's requirements and already had parent-teacher advisory board.

"We've had that in place for quite some years on our handbook," he said. "We'll be able to take that existing committee and add this to one of their duties."

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Information from: The Daily Chronicle, http://www.daily-chronicle.com

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