SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– A new law requires districts to do background checks on teachers every five years.
Before this law, districts only had to screen teachers when they were first employed. Advocates and lawmakers said the new measure is designed make sure violent offenders stay out of the classroom.
On top of more frequent screenings, the new law prevents teachers charged with class 10 felonies from getting hired at another school district during an open investigation.
It also allows the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to suspend a teacher’s license if they are charged with misconduct like sex crimes, drug offenses and kidnapping. Districts now have to report a teacher’s conviction to the Board of Education when that educator is convicted of these types of crimes. In the past, districts only had to report the crime if a teacher was terminated because of it.
Advocates said the new law is all about keeping students safe. “An educator who has an open case of sex abuse or was convicted can’t just move to a new school district and pretend like that didn’t happen,” said Michelle Norris a Victim Advocate at the Sangamon County Children’s Advocacy Center. “It allows for some information to be shared with the school districts almost saying, ‘Okay, we know that you’ve hired this person, this is what happened.’ But it’s just further protections for our kids,” she said.
In addition to notifying other districts and ISBE, children’s advocacy centers also have to be apart of the process now in the event of sexual misconduct at school. These centers already work with children once an incident is reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) but their goal is to make sure traumatized students have an opportunity to work with them instead of only being questioned by school investigators.
The law also creates the Make Sexual and Severe Physical Abuse Fully Extinct Task Force made up of 30 members of law enforcement, the General Assembly, children’s advocacy centers, DCFS and teachers who explore solutions to end abuse in schools.