SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Education Association initiated a bill that will allow school districts to develop threat assessment protocols, threat assessment teams and access money to hire personnel and implement procedures to keep students safe.
House Bill 1561 allows for districts to do several things:
- Develop a threat assessment team and a threat assessment protocol.
- Expands the 1 cent county sales tax to be used for school safety improvements, school resource officers or mental health professionals, or allows a district to issue bonds, borrow money or find other ways to pay for the similar needs.
- Requires school districts to implement a threat assessment procedure that may be part of a school board policy on targeted school violence and prevention and that must include the creation of a threat assessment team made up of specific people.
- Requires each district to review each school building’s emergency and crisis response plans, protocols and procedures and the make-up of its team.
- Requires each district’s assessment team must include mental health professionals as well as representatives from state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our students and our staff in school buildings in Illinois,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association.
“It’s almost impossible to learn, and, frankly, to teach, in an environment where people are on edge and wondering if they are in danger. This new law ensures that districts are joining forces with local law enforcement to share information and working with mental health professionals to identify at-risk youth and get them the help they need before it’s too late.”
Paul Adams, an IEA member from Thornwood High School, worked on a task force with law enforcement and others on this topic.
“Today is a day to applaud all parties involved for their efforts in passing HB1561, amending the School Safety Drill Act. Not only does this amendment provide a mandate for K-12 schools to take a proactive and holistic approach in investigating possible threats, but it also helps to provide access to more mental health professionals and school resource officers for our less populated areas throughout the state.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said IEA’s leadership on this bill and the association’s willingness to bring groups together to find common ground helped its passage.
“We really appreciate IEA’s leadership on this. Keeping schools safe and free of violence is critical to ensuring an open learning environment for students,” said Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates. “This bill brings together parents, teachers, and school professionals to make sure school districts are using a consistent, defined evaluation process to assess threats and prevent school violence.”
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.