News from National Convention—Resolutions

PTA Convention 2016 LogoAt the 2016 National PTA Convention in Orlando, four resolutions were adopted by the convention delegates. PTA resolutions and position statements are official documents outlining the opinion, will, or intent of the association to address national problems, situations, or concerns that affect children and youth and that require national action to seek solutions to the issue. They serve an important purpose in formalizing and focusing the positions of the association on various important and relevant issues. The four resolutions adopted were:

Electronic Cigarettes and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Youth

The resolution on electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems focused on the growing use of electronic cigarettes among children and youth as well as the increased poisoning of young children who come into contact with the concentrated nicotine liquids used in the e-cigarettes. The resolution calls for PTA to advocate for legislation restricting the advertising, marketing, and sale of e-cigarettes to youth under 18 as well as restrictions or prohibitions on using e-cigarettes in public places. The resolution also calls on PTA units at all levels to educate youth, parents, school boards, and local officials on the dangers of e-cigarettes.

The first part of the resolution, dealing with restrictions of sales and marketing, has largely been accomplished with the recent issuing of regulations by the Food & Drug Administration. In addition, Illinois PTA has been covering this topic and providing information on it for over 18 months, and we will continue to do so.

Homework: Quality Over Quantity

The resolution on homework recognizes the value of homework as an important part of a child’s education. However, there is a growing perception among parents that the homework load on children has increased in recent years, and research indicates that for the early grades that is true. The resolution notes that homework that requires parental input and supervision or additional resources such as a readily-available internet connection can further increase the achievement gap and create inequities based on family resources.

The resolution calls for PTA support teachers, schools, and districts in promoting meaningful homework and using evidence-based guidelines in assigning homework. The resolution also encourages PTAs to advocate for school districts, school boards, and administrators to review or implement homework policies that address quality, quantity, and equity concerns in their district.

Recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Individuals as a Protected Class

The resolution on recognizing LGBTQ individuals as a protected class notes that every child should feel safe at school. Thirty percent of LGBTQ students have missed a day of school because they didn’t feel safe going to school, and LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied in school, more likely to be homeless, and more likely to become involved in the Juvenile Justice System. The resolution also notes that harassment and bullying policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are associated with students feeling safer, lover levels of bullying, decreased incidents of sexual harassment related to sexual orientation, increased teacher and staff intervention, and a greater reporting of incidents.

The resolution calls for PTA to support recognizing LGBTQ as a protected group in current civil rights legislation, Department of Education guidance, and Department of Justice guidance. The resolution also encourages PTAs to review school bullying policies and to support amendments that specifically address sexual orientation and gender identification/expression as they relate to harassment and bullying. Finally, the resolution call for PTAs to advocate for additional professional development for teachers and staff on supporting all students and incorporating age-appropriate, medically accurate, and culturally sensitive information on LGBTQ issues into health and other appropriate curricula.

As noted in a convention workshop on supporting LGBTQ students and families, addressing this issue is about changing behaviors, not beliefs. It is about ensuring that every child feels safe and supported at school and that every family feels welcomed. The revised National PTA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit has a section specifically devoted to supporting LGBTQ children and families to help PTAs address this issue.

Water Safety and Instruction

The resolution on water safety and instruction states that drowning is the third highest cause of death of youth 19 and younger and that over half of the drowning incidents for children 9 and younger occur in residential settings.

The resolution calls for PTAs to educate families, students, school personnel, and communities on water safety and swimming instruction. PTAs are also called to advocate for consistent, quality standards for water safety and swimming instruction and for policies and legislation to make such programs accessible for all students. Illinois PTA has addressed water safety in the past and noted in a recent One Voice Illinois post that a free pool safety sheet is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in both English and Spanish.

News from the Illinois PTA Convention—Resolutions

conv logo 2Resolutions are how PTAs can make a difference for every child in Illinois. Many current policies and laws that have made a difference in the lives of children, youth, and families began as a resolution, often from a local PTA unit: establishing a Juvenile Justice System, ensuring complete vision exams for children before starting school, limitations on the use of cell phones while driving, and the Parents’ Guide to the Illinois Graduated Driver’s License System are just a few of the many ways PTAs have made a difference.

At the 114th Convention of the Illinois PTA delegates passed the Resolution on Young Adults Involved in the Justice System. This resolution, noting that scientific research on brain development shows that a young adult’s brain is not fully developed until approximately age 25, creates a committee to study whether Illinois should treat those ages 18 to 21 differently from adults in the justice system. The committee will consider whether separate diversion and sentencing options for those ages 18 to 21 or raising the age of the juvenile justice system to 21 are appropriate. The committee will present its recommendations at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention.

Other action on resolutions at the 114th Illinois PTA Convention was to designate the 2013 resolutions on Prevention of Asphyxiation Games (Choking Game) and Energy Drinks  as continuing positions. A resolutions implementation report was also provided to convention delegates detailing actions the Illinois PTA has taken on previously adopted resolutions.

A Summer of Legislative Success for the Children of Illinois

The Illinois PTA is pleased to announce another success on Illinois PTA-supported legislation: Senate Bill 1793, Suicide Awareness Policy, was signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 21, 2015. Now known as Public Act 99-0443 or Ann Marie’s Law, requires that the State Board of Education:

  • Develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy in consultation with an Illinois youth suicide prevention organization and organizations representing school boards and personnel.
  • Compile, develop, and publicly post online recommended guidelines and educational materials for training and professional development as well as recommended resources and age-appropriate educational materials on youth suicide awareness and prevention.
  • The model policy is to include a statement on youth suicide awareness and prevention; protocols for education of staff and students; prevention methods, including procedures for early identification and referral of at-risk students; methods of intervention; response methods; reporting procedures; and recommended resources, including contact information.

Beginning with the 201-2016 school year, each school board is to review and update its current suicide awareness and prevention policy or adopt an age-appropriate youth suicide awareness and prevention policy consistent with this statute, and inform employees and parents of enrolled students of this policy.

The guidelines and resources provided by Ann Marie’s Law have been needed for some time: according to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide has been the 3rd leading cause of death of Illinois children aged 10 years to 21 years old for at least a decade.

The Illinois PTA wrote directly to Governor Rauner urging his signature on this Bill and several others. Additional legislative successes this spring on bills that the Illinois PTA has supported include legislation in the areas of Children’s Health and Safety, Education Issues, and Juvenile Justice, noted below:

Children’s Health and Safety

  • Senate Bill 7, the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, now Public Act 99-2455, will further protect Illinois youth should they experience a concussion by providing post-concussion screening and treatment prior to returning to play in both scholastic and park district organized athletics. In the past, even with recognized return-to-play standards for concussions and head injuries, some affected youth athletes were prematurely returned to play. This statute updates the safety protocols currently in place to better prevent these injuries, and to further ensure the appropriate treatment and oversight of concussion of youth athletes. Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 3.9 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the USA annually.
  • Senate Bill 9, the Powdered Caffeine Control and Education Act, now Public Act 99-00250, prohibits anyone from selling, offering to sell, giving or providing free samples of powdered pure caffeine to anyone under the age of 18 in Illinois in order to protect their health and safety. A single teaspoon of this substance may contain as much caffeine as 25 cups of coffee. As you may be aware from information provided in a recent Illinois PTA Resolution, caffeine can be a dangerous substance. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and related stimulants by children and adolescents.
  • House Bill 217 (HB217), the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, now known as Public Act 99-0411, protects Illinois youth under the age of 18 from conversion therapy or sexual orientation change efforts by mental health professionals. According to well-respected professional associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, conversion therapy is never recommended and may increase depression and anxiety. This may result in increased rates of substance abuse and self-destructive behavior, including suicide. This statute provides for penalties to anyone found to be in its violation.

Education

  • House Bill 2657, Educator Licensure (an Illinois Vision 20/20 bill), now Public Act 99-0058, will allow Illinois school districts to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and administrators, regardless of the state where individuals received their initial educator license. In addition, this amends the school code to provide that the institute fund may also be used by the State Superintendent of Education to support educator recruitment and retention programs and to provide professional development.
  • House Bill 2683, the Multiple Measure Index Bill, now known as Public Act 99-0193, also an Illinois Vision 20/20 bill, requires that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) develop a system of reward standards for student performance and school improvement for all school districts and their individual schools for those schools that meet specified criteria. The student performance segment will focus on student outcomes and closing the achievement gap within each school district and its individual schools using a Multiple Measure Index and Annual Measurable Objectives set forth in this statute. Rewards will be developed for those schools and school districts which:
    • are high-poverty, high-performing schools that are closing achievement gaps and excelling in academic achievement;
    • have sustained high performance;
    • have substantial growth performance over the 3 years preceding the year in which recognition is awarded;
    • have demonstrated the most progress compared to other schools in Illinois in closing the achievement gap.

Juvenile Justice

  • House Bill 2567 (HB2567) now Public Act 99-0254, amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to provide that a child under the age of 13 shall not be admitted, kept, or detained in a detention facility unless:
    • a local youth service provider has been contacted, and
    • the local youth service provider is unable to accept the child. 
  • House Bill 3718 (HB3718), now Public Act 99-0258, amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to expand juvenile court discretion over the important decision to try children in adult court by limiting automatic transfer, now triggered by age and charged offense. As of January 1, 2016, the juvenile court will have the discretion to make the transfer decision after hearing both sides of the case and reviewing the rehabilitative services available to the youth.

Looking Forward

What lies ahead? The Illinois PTA will continue to advocate for our children on issues concerning education issues, including education funding, children’s health and safety, environmental concerns, juvenile justice issues, as well as on active Resolutions concerning Special Education Issues, Energy Drinks and the Choking Game.

How can you help? Join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network to stay engaged on Illinois issues!

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty.

Governor Signs Two More Illinois PTA-Supported Bills

Governor Rauner continues to take action on bills that were passed by the legislature this past spring, including two more that were supported by the Illinois PTA.

Multiple Measure Index Bill

House Bill 2683, the Multiple Measure Index Bill, now known as Public Act 99-0193, was signed into law on July 30, 2015 by Governor Rauner.

As a result of Public Act 99-0193, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will develop a system of reward standards for student performance and school improvement for all school districts and their individual schools for those schools that meet specified criteria.

For schools, the ISBE will implement a system of rewards for those schools and school districts that recognizes:

  • High-poverty, high-performing schools that are closing achievement gaps and excelling in academic achievement;
  • Schools that have sustained high performance;
  • Schools that have substantial growth performance over the 3 years preceding the year in which recognition is awarded;
  • Schools that have demonstrated the most progress compared to other schools in Illinois in closing the achievement gap.

The student performance segment will focus on student outcomes and closing the achievement gap within each school district and its individual schools using a Multiple Measure Index and Annual Measurable Objectives set forth in this statute. This will include the school’s performance in terms of both academic success (including measures of college and career readiness) and equity (including the academic growth and college and career readiness of each school’s subgroups of students).

This was one of several bills endorsed by Illinois Vision 20/20. The Illinois PTA is a supporter of Illinois Vision 20/20, including the vision that Illinois adopt a differentiated accountability model that focuses on continuous improvement, recognizes the diversity of struggling schools, and eliminates achievement gaps across the state. The Illinois PTA platform includes support for the use of a growth-based accountability model when reporting student assessment and the measurement of school success as required by federal mandate and in conjunction with state mandated assessments.

Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act

Additional safety protections for young athletes are now law: Senate Bill 7, the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, is now Public Act 99-2455, signed by Governor Rauner on August 3, 2015. With the enactment of this law, Illinois youth will be further protected should they experience a concussion by providing post-concussion screening and treatment prior to returning to play in both scholastic and park district organized athletics.

Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 3,900,000 sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the USA annually. Continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of a head injury leaves a young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death.

Even with recognized return-to-play standards for concussions and head injuries, some affected youth athletes are prematurely returned to play. This statute updates the safety protocols currently in place to better prevent these injuries and to further ensure the appropriate treatment and oversight of concussion of youth athletes.

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