Springfield, IL… State Representative Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) is pushing for legislation to strengthen Illinois’s state laws to protect students from sexual predators in schools. A recent Chicago Tribune investigation found that CPS failed to protect its students from sexual abuse and assault over a 10 year period. The Chicago Tribune identified 72 school employees as alleged perpetrators and detailed the various ways in which CPS poorly responded and mistreated student victims.
“Sexual predators have no place in our society, let alone our schools,” Rep. McAuliffe said. “The fact that CPS does not have a set procedure for what is clearly a pervasive problem, and that they failed to report it to the Department of Child and Family Services as required by law is absolutely unacceptable. This investigation shined a light on serious lapses not just in CPS policy, but state law.”
House Bill 5914 requires a school board to establish a hearing procedure for student victims of alleged sexual assault or sexual abuse by a licensed educator that allows a student victim to testify. School districts may not interview a student without their parent or guardian’s permission. It would also require all complaints of abuse be forwarded to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and require the removal of an educator under investigation from the classroom. In addition, it makes it a crime for a school authority figure to have sex with a student regardless of age. Current state law limits this crime to the age of 17.
“School administrators should not be in charge of these investigations; they are not equipped to handle them,” Rep. McAuliffe continued. “Not only did CPS and individual schools mishandle sexual abuse cases as they occurred, but some of these predators should not have been allowed to step foot in schools in the first place.”
The Tribune’s investigation found CPS conducted negligent background checks when hiring teachers and a failure to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities. Some teachers that were investigated by CPS were later hired elsewhere.
HB 5914 mandates that ISBE 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 to another school district the disciplinary records and internal investigative findings of personnel relating to sexual abuse. 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.
HB 5914 has been filed with the Clerk and awaits committee assignment. The Illinois House and Senate will hold hearings this summer to further investigate the issue and consider additional policy recommendations.