Friday, February 23, 2018

Alliance Legislative Report 100-57


With only the Senate convening in Springfield this week, substantive bill action was limited, but a new bumper crop of bills was introduced by the Illinois General Assembly. The Alliance is tracking bills that impact all issues affecting our schools. Bills have been introduced on a wide variety of topics. Those posted to committee are being tracked by the Alliance and appear later in this report.

Alliance advocacy for safe schools and safe learning environments is now, as always, in the forefront of legislative action. While no new legislation has emerged as of yet in the wake of the Florida school shooting, bills are expected to be introduced to amend current school safety policies and procedures. To assist school districts with the current law and to help districts be proactive, the IASB has created this document that provides guidance. The document addresses what school districts are currently required to do under the School Safety Drill Act and some best practices for securing facilities.

Being in communication with law enforcement is one of the most important actions for local school districts to take to ensure a safe school environment. School districts are encouraged to keep an open channel of communication with local police and first responders. The Alliance is working on a statewide basis with law enforcement agencies to make sure that districts are provided the most updated information on school safety threats and resources to help respond to any threats.

Click here to read the entire Alliance Legislative Report 100-57, including a number of other education-related bills currently under consideration by the General Assembly.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

School safety plans in the spotlight

Since the horrific mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida on February 14, questions about local school districts’ readiness in the event of an emergency have been flooding in to school administrators and board members across the nation. Media, parents, and community members are asking school district representatives what they are doing to plan and prepare for the safety of the students and staff in case such a gut-wrenching scene develops in one of their schools.

In all likelihood, a school safety plan is in place in your school district. In Illinois, it is required by law in the School Safety Drill Act. But the plan’s effectiveness depends on whether the emergency plan was simply completed and set upon a shelf, or if it is a living document that is revisited, revised, and drilled on a continual basis.

When the drill act was written more than ten years ago it was considered one of the most comprehensive in the country. Today, the act still withstands the test of time and is a model for the dozens of states that have yet to enact such a safety plan into law. Most every time a legislator or media person suggests a “new” proposal for school safety, it is already covered in our current safety drill act.

The challenge is to ensure that school administrators and first responders are informed of what is contained in the law and what their individual responsibilities are under the law. The most important aspect of the school safety plan is for local school district personnel to work with their local first responders in the formulation, training, and evaluation of the school safety procedures. Secondly, school officials should communicate with parents and community members to assure them that proper security measures are in force.

The School Safety Drill Act requires that certain school evacuation drills be performed at specified intervals. It also requires that school officials meet with local responders at least annually to review and evaluate crisis response plans, protocols, and procedures.

Time should be taken now to review your emergency operations plans. Make sure that they are comprehensive, meet the requirements of the drill act, are known to staff, and drilled with students. A quick guide on school safety measures can be found here – including access to the “Guide for Developing High Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.”

No one cares more about the safety and security of students within the school building than the school board members, teachers, and administrators that are charged with their wellbeing each day. Be proactive in improving your security measures and in reassuring your community that these are in place.

Schools prepare for school walkouts

In response to the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, students and educators are preparing for the school walkouts designed to protest gun violence in schools. Some school attorneys report their local boards, too, are weighing if and how they are going to accommodate student and employee participation (or non-participation) while minimizing school disruption from such planned events as

Additionally, some Illinois school districts were already working with walkouts this past week. School lawyers say districts must balance competing interests and various factors when determining how to respond to requests from students and educators to participate in such events, including student and employee free speech rights, the age and maturity of the students involved, maintaining order within schools, and providing a safe environment.

“If a significant number of students and educators are planning to participate in these walkouts, the district may determine that it is best to accommodate them by, for example, providing a safe environment for the walkouts (indoors or outdoors), not penalizing students and educators who participate, and providing supervision for students who choose not to participate,” said IASB Assistant General Counsel Maryam Brotine.

IASB recommends that districts consult with their board attorneys when planning appropriate responses.

For an in-depth discussion of student and employee First Amendment rights, see the NSBA’s new guide Coercion, Conscience, and the First Amendment:  A Legal Guide for Public Schools on the Regulation of Student and Employee Speech.

Note: This Blog post is solely for information purposes, not legal advice; IASB recommends that school boards consult their board attorneys on this topic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Talbert announces retirement

Cathy Talbert
A key member of the IASB staff has announced her retirement from the Association and a move to California.

Cathy Talbert, associate executive director for field services and policy services, has announced she is retiring effective June 30, 2018. Talbert has been a dedicated member of the staff for 28 years.

Since joining the Association staff, she has worked directly with hundreds of school boards and thousands of school board members through trainings, presentations, and workshops in Illinois and across the country. She offered particular expertise in governance, policy, school law, and association management.

Before bringing her dynamic approach to leadership to the IASB staff, Talbert worked as an attorney in private practice and on the legal staff of the Illinois State Board of Education. She joined IASB in February 1990, assumed responsibility for policy services in 1995, added responsibility for the Targeting Achievement Through Governance (TAG) grant-funded program in 2004-2007, and became an associate executive director for both field services and policy services departments in 2007 through the present.

Talbert served under three IASB executive directors: Wayne Sampson, Michael D. Johnson, and Roger Eddy. Talbert notes that she will miss the people and work at IASB: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with and serve the IASB leadership, members, and staff in pursuit of our vision, excellence in local school board governance supporting quality public education.” she said.

“We thank Cathy Talbert for her loyal dedication to the Association and wish her well in her future endeavors. Her skill and knowledge in her respective departments will be missed,” said Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of IASB.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Newest member district welcomed

IASB has added another board of education to active membership. Edwardsville CUSD 7 is located in the Association’s Southwestern Division. The district joined the Association on February 6 and is being served by Field Services Director Larry Dirks.

That brings the active membership count to 846 public school districts in Illinois. With only four non-member districts in the state, the 99.6 percent membership ratio is the highest level in IASB’s 105-year history.