Thursday, December 17, 2015

Concussions, civics mandates delayed until next school year

New laws on student-athlete concussions and on civics education, posing difficult deadlines for schools and students alike, will not take effect during the current school year as originally adopted. Both have been delayed, thanks to a strong push by the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance.

Early versions of Public Act 99-0434, which required the completion of a semester of civics education prior to graduation, and Public Act 99-0245, with a number of new requirements regarding student-athlete concussions, were set to take effect during the current year. Both laws were signed in August.

Recent approval of two follow-up bills will delay the effective date of both laws until the 2016-2017 school year.

The postponement of the civics requirement is intended to give students approaching graduation enough time to accommodate the new prerequisite course. Meanwhile the concussion mandate deferral will ensure that districts have the time necessary to meet all the requirements, and have the proper resources, training, and staff to remain compliant with the law.

“We’re happy to see these bills we pushed so hard for signed into law,” said Ben Schwarm, IASB deputy executive director. “The original bills made it impossible for school districts to comply and would have been burdensome to school districts, and more importantly, to students.”

House Bill 800 was signed by Governor Rauner on Nov. 20. The legislation will allow for a gradual phase-in of the civics graduation requirement beginning on July 1, 2016. The law originally called for students graduating during the current 2015-2016 school year to complete the new credit. The expedited deadline penalized current students nearing graduation as they would be forced to adjust existing schedules to accommodate the new mandate, or face the possibility of not graduating on time.

Also signed on Nov. 20 was Senate Bill 219, which postpones the effective date of most provisions within the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act. The requirements in the Concussion Act will now need to be in place by the start of the next school year.

The concussion safety guidelines are aimed at school districts properly addressing medical concerns that may arise after a student athlete suffers a concussion or head injury. They contain protocols for actions that need to be taken after such an injury, and also before the student is allowed to re-enter the classroom. The provisions require specific action by local boards of education to appoint a concussion oversight team that must meet certain qualifications, as well as training of school district personal involved with interscholastic activities.

IASB has developed a checklist to aid districts in meeting the necessary requirements that schools must adhere to under the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act. Additional resources, newly posted in December 2015, are available on the IASB website to assist district staff in addressing concussion and head injury precautions.