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McSweeney files bill in response to Chicago Public Schools' sex abuse scandal

Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills
Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, filed legislation to protect students from predatory educators and ensure accusations against educators are managed properly with the best interests of students in mind.

House Bill 5914 makes numerous changes in state law to address the flaws and gaps in legislation and policy that led to Chicago Public Schools’ gross mishandling of sexual abuse and assault cases that occurred at schools within the district.

“The mistakes made by the schools in Chicago are reprehensible; nothing like this should ever be allowed to happen again,” McSweeney said in a news release. “These cases were handled atrociously by CPS, and they were allowed to get away with it because of shortcomings in state law.”

HB 5914 mandates that the Illinois State Board of Education must be aware of, and monitor, the process with regard to each individual background check conducted by school districts.

It also amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow school districts to disclose the disciplinary records of district personnel in connection with sexual abuse.

It further allows a school district to divulge internal investigative findings and discipline to another school district. Any arresting agency is required to share its reports pertaining to the arrest of a licensed educator with the superintendent of any school district that employs the educator.

Modeled off a Florida law, the bill also would make it a criminal offense for an authority figure to engage in sexual conduct or sexual relations with a student, regardless of age.

“This isn’t just on CPS, these failures exist in state government as well, and need to be fixed as soon as possible,” McSweeney said. “This comprehensive legislation is a solid start and a good base that we can amend as further policy recommendations are given or more legislative gaps come to light.”

The bill was drafted by McSweeney and state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park. State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, is the chief co-sponsor in the Illinois House.

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