House Bill 4994 Passes House and Senate, Heads to Governor’s Desk

SPRINGFIELD – House Bill 4994 (HB 4994) passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and is now awaiting Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature. The legislation, initiated by the Illinois Education Association, would track which school districts are not in compliance with the Illinois’ School Threat Assessment Law. Rep. Fred Crespo (Hoffman Estates-D) and Rep. Tony McCombie (Savanna-R) worked with the IEA and are sponsoring the bill.

“Unfortunately, during the pandemic, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the amount of violence in our schools,” said Griffin. “We need our school district administrators to be following the law and keeping our schools safe. Our teachers and school support staff should not have to worry about their own safety and the safety of their students. When this bill becomes law, it will hold our school districts accountable and make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our schools and communities safe.”

In 2019, the Illinois Education Association initiated, and the state legislature passed what’s known as the School Threat Assessment Law.

The law does several things:

  • Instructs schools to develop a threat assessment team and a threat assessment protocol.
  • Expands the use of the 1-cent county sales tax to include school safety improvements, school resource officers or mental health professionals, or allow 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, which must include the creation of a threat assessment team made up of specific people.
  • Calls for 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 to include mental health professionals as well as representatives from state, county and local law enforcement agencies.

The IEA partnered with Crespo and McCombie to sponsor HB 4994 to ensure school districts are complying with the requirements in the School Threat Assessment law.

“I’m so glad to see this legislation on its way to becoming law. Strong schools mean we have strong communities. This legislation will protect our students and school employees across the state.  This will lead to a better Illinois,” Crespo said.

“In a situation like what happened in Michigan, the threat assessment team would have been called upon and intervened to get the student the help they needed before tragedy occurs. That is the intent of this law,” McCombie said. “The children of our state are our most important asset. We must ensure threat assessment plans are not only created but reviewed and followed to keep our students safe.”

School districts can use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire more staff to address mental health issues students may be facing.

“Laws can certainly help keep us safe, but we need to make sure we are working with our children to get them the supports they need,” Griffin said. “The pandemic is causing additional trauma for so many Illinois families. We need to recognize that and do what we can to help.”

###

At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.