Thumbs-up: To state Rep. David McSweeney for filing a bill that would require school districts to report any investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against a school employee or contractor to parents. The bill, House Bill 3819, was created to address concerns raised after a Northwest Herald investigation revealed Community High School District 155 officials knew in August – months before notifying parents – about a police probe into allegations against a Crystal Lake Central High School teacher later charged with felony grooming of an underage girl for sex. It is unacceptable that the teacher, Matthew Fralick, was allowed back in the classroom after the school knew of the allegations against him. The allegations, involving a minor, should have prevented him from working with or near students while the investigation was ongoing. We hope McSweeney’s bill will prevent a situation like this from happening again.
Thumbs-up: To Algonquin native Kevin Orr, who will be inducted into the U.S. Quadriplegic Rugby Hall of Fame on Saturday in Rockford. Orr was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which affects the development of multiple joint contractures in two or more areas of the body before birth, but the 50-year-old never allowed the condition to keep him from competing in athletics. Orr played sports throughout his youth, high school, college and eventually won two bronze medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Orr has gone on to coach Canada’s and Japan’s national wheelchair rugby team, and he has inspired countless athletes with disabilities to pursue their dreams.
Thumbs-down: To unacceptable exemptions. Last week, Capitol News Illinois reported about a push in Springfield to phase out state participation in a federal system allowing employers to pay people with disabilities far below the legal minimum wage. CNI said provisions in Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act allow employers to obtain a certificate to hire people at less than minimum wage. Advocates report that some certificate holders have paid wages far lower than $1 hourly, according to CNI.
Six states already have implemented programs mandating a living wage at the statewide level for workers, regardless of disability, and state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, wants Illinois to be the seventh. Her plan would call for a five-year phaseout for 112 facilities with 14C exemptions that employ more than 10,000 people with disabilities, and allocating existing resources to support these facilities as they evolve. We understand these jobs often are different from conventional employment and facilities routinely provide more than basic employment. But no adult in Illinois should be paid less than $1 for an hour of work.