Springfield, IL… Following a shocking investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint meeting to hear testimony from sexual harassment and abuse survivors as well as Chicago Public School employees. Taking note of the troubling issues brought up during testimony, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has joined the push for significant legislative changes to sexual misconduct policies in Illinois schools.
“Obviously we are not doing enough to keep our children safe from predators in places where parents entrust us to protect them,” Rep. McDermed said. “The State needs to step in to ensure that schools are a place where students can feel safe. There needs to be zero tolerance for sexual misconduct by those in positions of authority.” House Bill 5929 would amend the Chicago and Downstate Articles of the Pension Code to allow the forfeiture of pension benefits of any teacher who is found through an administrative hearing to have sexually abused a student.
The legislation would apply to any teacher hired after the effective date of the bill as the pension guarantee written into the Illinois Constitution prohibits ex post facto application of the law. House Bill 5923 adds stricter provisions to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act by providing for the immediate suspension or revocation of the license of any Illinois educator or other school district employee who negligently, as opposed to just willfully, fails to report an instance of suspected child abuse or neglect. Rep. McDermed’s own legislation to increase the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements in the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, House Bill 5131, was filed earlier this year in response to last year’s revelation of widespread misconduct in national athletic programs.
Despite filing a motion to discharge it from committee, HB 5131 never received a hearing or a vote. Rep. McDermed is also a co-sponsor of bipartisan legislation filed before the hearing, House Bill 5914, that would make comprehensive changes to the way in which schools hire teachers and conduct investigations of sexual misconduct. Legislation spurred by the Tribune‘s CPS investigation is expected to be heard during the November veto session. If approved and signed, they would be effective immediately.