The Illinois School Code amendment goes into effect on September 16, 2016. Local school districts are establishing new discipline programs accordingly. The amendment makes certain disciplinary actions a review process with the school board making a final determination. Some questions posed by this and other changes require time to evaluate. Personal injury lawyer Algonquin attorney Randall Taradash believes it will take a while to recognize and address potential legal concerns.
The overall focus is on maintaining a safe environment while keeping students in school. With that goal in mind, the act emphasizes in-school discipline over expulsion and out-of-school suspensions. Several of the new guidelines may prove controversial.
The "...non-exclusionary discipline.." assessment process doesn't require consultation with an outside professional. It's a staff judgment call that runs the risk of incorrectly labeling a student. An improper "...non-aggressive..." designation could keep a violent child in a position to cause personal injury to fellow students. An improper label of "...at risk for aggressive behavior..." could decrease a child's chances for future success.
Students still may be expelled and parents may attend the expulsion hearing. The amendment doesn't address a child's right to legal representation or appeal. It also forbids legal actions against school staff for disciplinary efforts.
Teachers cannot encourage students to drop out of school because of behavior or discipline difficulties. Expelling a student and placing them in an "alternative program" may encourage a child to drop out anyway.
The amendment includes discipline for Internet threats. Personal injury lawyer Algonquin attorney Taradash believes it's important to address digital harassment, but some disciplinary actions may hinder student free speech outside the classroom.
School staff may search lockers at will as students have no right to privacy.
The lack of "Zero Tolerance" policies can prevent systematic expulsions and suspensions. It can also allow a teacher or administrator to permit one student a free pass for bad behavior while punishing another student for the same act.
Attorney Randall Taradash understands the new school policies present complex issues. He recommends students and parents follow the progress and document any concerns as schools implement the new programs.