Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Education Issues

As we approach Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on February 6, 2019, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains Illinois PTA made on issues affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. Today’s article looks back at new laws covering education issues, including special education and social and emotional learning.

IEP Parent Notification

Many parents and students may be unaware of the special services available and, as a result, may not receive the early and effective interventions needed. PA 100-0993, Individualized Education Program(SB454) amends the Children with Disabilities article of the School Code to provide that at a child’s initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting and at each annual IEP review meeting, the IEP team will provide written notice to the child’s parent or guardian advising as to whether the child requires assistive technology in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Section 504 Parent Information

Another statute, PA 100-1112, amends the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code in connection with Mental Health Services (HB5770) to provide that a school board will provide notice through its student handbook, newsletter, and/or website that students who do not qualify for an individualized education program, may, however, qualify for services under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if the child has or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.

Social and Emotional Learning

The Illinois PTA supports social emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools pursuant to our continuing position on this issue. SEL programs have been shown to have immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic development. Incorporating non-violent conflict resolution and positive interactions with others—important components of social and emotional learning—may be an effective means of preventing further suspensions and needs for disciplinary action in the near future and many years from now. A 2017 meta-analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, the University of British Columbia, and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) determined that SEL programs benefit students long-term. As many as 18 years later, students exposed to SEL in school continue to do better than peers in the following areas: positive social behaviors and attitudes; empathy; teamwork; and academics. They also were found to have fewer problems in connection with conduct, less emotional distress, and lower drug use. CASEL found that SEL skill development is best done through effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom, and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

In connection with this, we supported related bills – HB5786 and HB4657. PA 100-1035, In School Suspension Focus on Non-violent Conflict Resolution (HB 5786) amends the School Code regarding in-school suspensions so that the school district may focus on non-violent conflict resolution, and positive interactions with other students and school personnel, as well as permits a school district to employ a school social worker or mental health professional to oversee the in-school suspension program. PA 100-1139, Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force, (HB4657)amends the School Code, creating the Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force to develop curriculum guidelines, assessment guidelines and best practices on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning.

Parenting Education

Research across numerous agencies has shown that programs that promote healthy social, emotional and cognitive development can improve the quality of life and potential for many children. In particular, properly developed parenting programs have been shown to promote positive parenting behaviors and effective discipline strategies, change adverse family patterns, and to reduce levels of child abuse and neglect. According to the National Academy of Sciences, abuse can change a child’s brain, including with respect to: the way the brain regulates emotions, such as fear and anxiety – altering the way a child connects with peers and adults; cognitive processing – including planning, reasoning and decision-making ability; and can lead to an increase in social problems, including drug abuse, violent and/or criminal behavior, to list just a few. The AAP Report also found that parenting education is an effective means to prevent abuse and mental illness before it starts.

PA 100-1043, Parenting Education Bill (HB4442) amends the School Code to require, in part, that the State Board of Education implement and administer a 3-year pilot program to support the health and wellness student-learning requirement with a unit of instruction on parenting education in participating school districts for the ninth through twelfth grade, encouraging instruction on the following: 1) family structure, function, and management, 2) child abuse prevention, 3) the physical, mental, emotional, social, economic, and psychological aspects of interpersonal and family relationships, and 4) parenting education competency development, aligned to the social and emotional learning standards of the student’s grade level. Importantly, it will also allow the State Board of Education to provide grants for those participating in the pilot program.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.

Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Child Safety

Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield is coming on February 6, 2019, and as a lead up, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains Illinois PTA made on issues affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. Today’s article looks back at new laws covering children’s safety, including firearms concerns.

Firearms Safety

Every child deserves a nurturing environment that is free of the fear of violence. The reality for many is far different. The news is filled with stories of gun violence. According to the CDC, in 2013 there were 1,117 gun violence related deaths in Illinois. Of those, 151 were children and youths aged 19 and younger. PA 100-0606 amends the Criminal Code of 2012 imposing a 72 hour waiting period for the sale or delivery of firearms and adds restrictions for sales to the mentally ill and narcotic addicts. PA 100-0607, the Firearms Restraining Order Act, permits family members and law enforcement officials to petition the courts to remove firearms for a limited time from the home of someone they think might be a danger to themselves or to others.

Concussions

Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. According to the CDC, in 2012, an estimated 329,290 children and youth aged 19 or younger were treated in the USA for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or traumatic brain injury. From 2001 to 2012, the rate of emergency room visit for these issues more than doubled for this age group. Continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of a head injury leaves a young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death.

PA 100-0747 (HB4226) provides for the much needed distribution of information concerning the effects of concussions in children detailing the related warning signs of a concussion to the child or the parent or guardian of a child who may have sustained a concussion at no charge by schools. The law also provides that the regional office of education of a public elementary, secondary, or charter school is to supervise the athletic trainer (or other responsible individual) with respect to the return-to-play or return-to-learn concussion protocol.

Child Car Seats

Another safety issue relates to the use of car safety seats. The AAP recommends rear-facing car safety seats for most infants up to 2 years of age. Recently enacted PA 100-0672 (HB 4377) requires the person transporting a child under two years old in a motor vehicle in the first or second division, is responsible for securing the child in a rear-facing child restraint system, unless that child is more than 40 pounds or over 40 inches tall.

Immigrant Children

Recent national policy has caused concern regarding the treatment of children based on their immigration status. PTA supports the confidentiality of school records, including records that pertain to the immigration status of children, and opposes unrestrained access to school records to determine that status. PTA further believes that school districts should not voluntarily report undocumented students to immigration authorities because such actions may constitute a denial of access to education under the 1982 United States Supreme Court decision Plyler v. Doethat determined that undocumented school-aged children are entitled to have access to a high quality and free public K-12 education.

Based on this, the Illinois PTA supported the Anti-Registry Program Act, now P.A. 100-1088 which prevents the creation of, or requirement to enroll in, a registry program (with certain specified exceptions) to collect and disclose personal demographic information in which individuals or groups are listed on the basis of information that includes, but is not limited to, race, color, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, military status, order of protection status, pregnancy. The Anti-Registry Program Act also provides that no agent or agency may provide personal demographic information that is not otherwise publicly available.

Additionally, the Voices of Immigrant Communities Empowering Survivors Act, PA 100-1115,provides important protections concerning the immigration status of crime victims. Without those protections, undocumented immigrants might be afraid to come forward to report crimes in the community or domestic abuse, or, if they do come forward, the victims may themselves be incarcerated under the current federal policy; any children involved could be detrimentally impacted by this.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.

Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Children’s Health

This week, Illinois gets a new governor and a new General Assembly. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains on issues Illinois PTA supported affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. You can help continue our success by adding your voice to our voice on February 6, 2019 for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield. In today’s article, we look back at new laws covering children’s health and mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Training

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), although 1 in 5 children in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, only 21% of affected children actually receive needed treatment. The results of the failure to identify these disorders can lead to isolation, depression, violence, drug use, or suicide. Identification of these issues is the first step in obtaining necessary treatment. Public Act (PA) 100-0903(formerly House Bill 4658) amends the School Codeconcerning Mental Health Awareness to provide for the in-service training of licensed school personnel and administrators to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior in youth from kindergarten through 12thgrade.

Flu and Meningitis Vaccine Information

In terms of overall health, we supported Senate Bill 2654 (SB2654), now PA 100-0977 which requires the development and provision of much-needed information regarding influenza and meningococcal disease and their related vaccinesto the parents and guardians of students. Both illnesses can lead to a substantial number of days lost from school for students, and, in the worst cases, can lead to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningococcal related illnesses, which can include certain infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and bloodstream infections, are often severe and can be deadly. With respect to influenza, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there were 174 pediatric deaths from influenza during this past flu season. While influenza and meningococcal diseases are highly preventable with these vaccines, many parents and guardians do not have adequate information on these diseases and the vaccines to make appropriate choices for their children.

HPV Vaccine Information

We also supported SB2866, now PA 100-0741 which requires the provision of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) informationby the Department of Public Health to all students entering sixth grade and their parents or legal guardians so that families have the information available and can choose to protect their children with vaccinations before they are ever exposed to the HPV virus. According to the CDC, HPV causes approximately 31,500 new cases of cancer each year. Both the CDC and the AAP recommend immunization against HPV for all 11-year-old through 12-year-old children as part of the adolescent immunization platform.

Asthma and Allergies

Two new statutes that amend the School Code concern students with asthma and/or allergies. For millions of children with allergies and asthma, pollens, molds and exposure to potential allergens and viruses in class can take a high toll. According to the CDC, asthma, which can be triggered by allergies and respiratory illnesses, is one of the major reasons why students miss school. PA 100-0726(formerly SB3015)amends the School Code regarding Asthma Medication Administrationto provide that a school district or school may authorize a school nurse or other trained personnel to: provide undesignated asthma medication to a student for self-administration or to personnel authorized to administer the medication pursuant to a student’s Health Care Action Plan, asthma action plan, IEP, or 504 Plan (“Student Plans”); administer undesignated asthma medication that meets the prescription on file to any student with a Student Plan; and, if necessary, administer an undesignated asthma medication to any person that they believe in good faith to be in respiratory distress. Additionally, the statute provides for a training curriculum to ensure that the signs and symptoms of respiratory distress are recognized and responded to appropriately, and permits a supply of asthma medication to be maintained in a secure location that is accessible before, during or after school.

PA 100-0799 – the Epinephrine Injector Act(formerly SB2889) will allow school districts to choose the least expensive drug option to have on hand in the event of an anaphylactic reaction. Allergies and anaphylactic reactions continue to be important health concerns for many school age children. Statistically, twenty-five percent (25%) of first time allergic reactions occur in a school setting. The time to respond to a severe allergic reaction with appropriate treatment is critical. However, recent increases in the cost of the epinephrine auto-injectors have made their availability difficult for schools. The Epinephrine Injector Act gives them options for less costly, but still effective treatment for children and youth undergoing an anaphylactic reaction.

Dental Exams Before 9thGrade

In terms of dental health, we supported HB4908, now PA100-0829 regarding Dental Examinations for Youths. According to the AAP, there are a number of reasons to have a dental exam beyond the fact that early childhood dental caries is the most common chronic disease of childhood. Many diseases, including diabetes, certain autoimmune system disorders, and cancer, can be detected in a dental oral exam before symptoms show up elsewhere. This statute now adds the requirement that all children in ninth grade have a dental examinations.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.

 

The Importance of Algebra I in 8th Grade

Access to Algebra I in 8thgrade is a critical course for students interested in going into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. A recent US Department of Education data storylooks at which students have access to 8thgrade Algebra I, where it is offered, and who takes it.

Why 8thGrade Algebra I is Important

Algebra I is considered a gatekeeper course—students need to complete it to have access to higher level math and science courses. For example, students who take Algebra I in the 8thgrade can then take Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus during their high school years. Not taking it until the 9thgrade moves calculus off the schedule in high school. Similar limits happen in getting the prerequisites for higher level science courses students need to complete in order to major in STEM fields in college. Currently, only 24% of public school students take Algebra I in the 8thgrade.

Access to 8thGrade Algebra I

Based on US Department of Education data, the availability of 8thgrade Algebra I varies widely. Only 59% of schools across the country offer Algebra I in the 8thgrade; however, these schools serve approximately 80% of all public school students. Suburban schools are the most likely to offer 8thgrade Algebra I, with 86% of students in those districts able to do so. About 75% of students in schools grouped as urban, rural, or town have access Algebra I in the 8thgrade.

Enrollment, however, lags far behind access. Overall, 24% of 8thgraders take Algebra I. Asian students are most likely to take 8thgrade Algebra I, with 34% doing so. White and multiracial students take it at 24% and 23% rates, respectively. Other minority groups enroll in 8thgrade Algebra I at a 12% to 14% rate. Female students (25%) are slightly more likely to take Algebra I in the 8thgrade than male students (22%).

Given that high school graduation in Illinois requires completion of Algebra I and Geometry, school districts might be tempted to push students into 8thgrade Algebra I in order to help them successfully complete it in high school. However, research indicatesthat while pushing students who are underprepared to take Algebra I in the 8thgrade does result in more of them passing Algebra I in high school, those students pass with lower scores than those who started the course later and they are also less likely to pass high school geometry.

What PTAs Can Do

One part of the data story includes an interactive map allowing you to zoom in on Illinois and see the percentage of schools in each district that offer 8thgrade Algebra I. For Chicago Public Schools, only 49% of schools did so. A significant portion of downstate districts do not offer it at all.

If your school district does not currently offer every student access to 8thgrade Algebra I, your PTA can advocate for those students. Every PTA should also ask about what your school district is doing to ensure that every student who has access to 8thgrade Algebra I is prepared to do so and what is being done to close any achievement gaps for students of color, of low-socio-economic status, or other groups underrepresented in the district’s enrollment in 8thgrade Algebra I.