By: Brittany Flaherty Theis
On June 8, 2023, Brian R. Bare and Brittany Flaherty Theis presented “Legal Standards for the Management of School Personnel” in Bloomington as part of Illinois ASBO’s administrator academy offerings. A topic that received significant attention and discussion was Faith’s Law, including the trailer bill (Public Act 102-0702), which builds upon prior legislation designed to combat grooming and clarify expectations for professional conduct and healthy boundaries.
Faith’s Law (Public Act 102-0676) was originally signed into law on December 3, 2021. Public Act 102-0676 expanded the criminal definition of grooming and created several new requirements for the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”), school districts, and educators. In part, it required ISBE to develop and maintain a resource guide for pupils, parents or guardians, and teachers that gives guidance about sexual abuse response and prevention resources available in their community. ISBE’s Sexual Abuse Response and Prevention Resource Guide, dated June 12, 2023, can be found here.
Public Act 102-0676 added Section 22-85.5 of the School Code regarding sexual misconduct in schools. Section 22-85.5 of the School Code, among other things, defines sexual misconduct and required each school district, charter school, or nonpublic school to develop an employee code of professional conduct policy – the requirements for which were set forth in that Section.
Public Act 102-0702 was signed into law on April 22, 2022, with an effective date of July 1, 2023. This trailer legislation added Section 22-85.10 of the School Code, which requires school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools to implement a procedure by which parents or guardians will be notified of allegations of, formal action related to, sexual misconduct with that parent or guardian’s enrolled student, as well as the requirements and restrictions for such procedures.
The portion of the trailer legislation discussed the most during the June presentation was Section 22-94 of the School Code, which pertains to employment history reviews (“EHR”). Section 22-94 provides that, prior to hiring an applicant to work directly with children or students, a school or contractor must ensure that it conducts an EHR in accordance with the requirements set forth in this Section. Some criteria of the EHR include:
- The school or contractor ensuring that it has no knowledge or information pertaining to the applicant that would disqualify the applicant from employment;
- The applicant swearing that they are not disqualified from employment;
- The school or contractor requiring, and the applicant providing, using templates developed by ISBE:
- A list of their current and former employers that were schools or school contractors and those former employers at which the applicant had direct contact with children or students
- Written authorization that consents to and authorizes current and former employers to release of the information requested through the EHR; and
- A written statement by the applicant addressing specific, enumerated inquiries related to sexual misconduct allegations or discipline.
4. The school or contractor initiating a review of the employment history, using templates developed by ISBE; and
5. The school district, charter school, or nonpublic school verifying the applicant’s reported previous employers in ISBE’s educator licensure database to ensure accuracy.
Standards, timelines, and additional requirements for the EHR are also set forth in Section 22-94. The specific requirements of Section 22-94 are lengthy, and many details are beyond the purview of this blog post. The express requirements and many nuances of Faith’s Law have been the subject of numerous presentations and webinars throughout the State. Additionally, ISBE published Faith’s Law Guidance & FAQ, which can be found here. If you have legal questions regarding compliance with Faith’s Law, please feel free to contact Brian R. Bare and Brittany Flaherty Theis.