Over the past year, the Illinois Legislature has amended the School Code to add numerous requirements aimed to address sexual abuse prevention and response in schools. Known as Faith’s Law and Erin’s Law, the amendments impose new policy, handbook notification, website posting, and training requirements in effect now for school districts, charter schools and non-public schools (as we previously reported on here). The Legislature also amended the School Code to add new parent notification and employee history review requirements that go into effect July 1, 2023. We provide below a summary of the key requirements in effect now to help you ensure your schools comply with the new requirements.
Employee Code of Professional Conduct Policy
Under the newly created 105 ILCS 5/22-85.5, Faith’s Law requires school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools to develop an employee code of professional conduct policy by July 1, 2022 that addresses all of the following:
- Incorporates the Code of Ethics for Illinois Educators
- Incorporates the definition of “sexual misconduct” as defined in 105 ILCS 5/22-85.5
- Identifies the expectations for employees and agents regarding how to maintain a professional relationship with students, including the expectations for staff-student boundaries, recognizing the age and developmental level of the students served, and establishes guidelines for the following situations:
- Transporting a student
- Taking or possessing a photo or a video of a student
- Meeting with a student or contacting a student outside of the employee’s or agent’s professional role
- References the employee reporting requirements required under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act and under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972
- References required employee training that is related to child abuse and educator ethics that are applicable under State and federal law
Policy Addressing Sexual Abuse of Children
Under the amended School Code provision 10-23.13, referred to as Erin’s Law, public school districts must also adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse of children. The policy must include an age-appropriate and evidence-informed curriculum for students in pre-k through 12th grade, evidence-informed training for school personnel, evidence-informed educational information to parents or guardians as well as any needed assistance, referral or resource information, available counseling and resources for students affected by sexual abuse, and emotional and educational support for a child to continue to be successful in school. The policy must also include materials and instruction on prohibited grooming behaviors and boundary violations for school personnel and how to report such behaviors, and must address specific related topics outlined in the School Code.
Student and Staff Handbook Requirements
- School districts, charter schools and nonpublic, nonsectarian schools must include a copy of their new employee code of professional conduct policy in any staff, student or school handbook.
- Erin’s Law also requires public school districts to provide evidence-informed educational information to parents or guardians in “the school handbook” on the warning signs of a child being abused, along with any needed assistance, referral, or resource information.
Website Posting Requirement
- School districts, charter schools and nonpublic schools must post a copy of their new employee code of professional conduct policy on their website.
- By January 31 of each year, school districts must provide training for school personnel on child sexual abuse, specifically evidence-informed training on preventing, recognizing, reporting and responding to child sexual abuse and grooming behavior, including when the grooming or abuse is committed by a member of the school community, with a discussion of the criminal statutes addressing sexual conduct between school personnel and students, professional conduct and reporting requirements, and must include additional related training outlined in other School Code provisions.
Mandatory Reporting under ANCRA
- As a reminder, Faith’s Law also amended the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”) to add grooming to the definition of abuse. Accordingly, any mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to believe that the parent, immediate family member, household member, paramour of the child’s parent, or any person responsible for the welfare of a child known to the mandated reporter in their professional or official capacity has engaged in grooming against the child, as defined under the Illinois Criminal Code, must immediately report such belief to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
We will provide further details regarding the new parent notification and employee history review requirements going into effect July 2023 for school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools in upcoming alerts.