A Review of Our Spring Legislative Session 2014…

During this legislative session, we at Project NIA, supported some bills that passed while others stalled in the legislature. We also actively opposed one particular bill that stalled in the Senate. Below is a recap.

BILLS WE SUPPORTED THAT PASSED

As a member of the Campaign for Common Sense Discipline led by VOYCE, we supported SB2793 which passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.

SB2793 requires:

1. The public reporting of data on the issuance of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings in lieu of another disciplinary action for all publicly-funded schools in Illinois. The collected data would be disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency, incident type, and discipline duration.

2. Illinois School Districts that are identified in the top 20% in the use of suspensions, expulsions or racial disproportionality would have to submit an improvement plan identifying the strategies the school district will implement to reduce the use of exclusionary disciplinary practices, racial disproportionality, or both.

After several years of co-leading Coalition for Juvenile Expungement Reform and leading the Unmarked Campaign, with the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, SB0978 passed both houses of the IL General Assembly. We supported an earlier, more robust version of the bill and organized to collect hundreds of witness slips as the bill moved through the legislature. The final bill is a more modest step but it is a step in the right direction.

If the Governor signs SB0978 into law, it would erase some arrest records for children who weren’t charged or convicted of an alleged crime. These are mere arrests. SB0978 requires the Illinois State Police to delete its arrest records for these minors. The bill excludes alleged sex-related offenses, higher-level felony arrests and those occurring within the previous six months.

The Governor signed SB978 on Saturday. It is now law and here’s what the new law allows:

“Expungement would be limited to most but not all misdemeanors and low-level felonies committed after Jan. 1, 2015; records would only be expunged if the juvenile has not been charged formally with the crime; and this kind of expungement would only apply to those juveniles who have not been arrested for any other reason in a six-month period following the initial arrest. Arrests classified as Class 2 felonies or higher and all sex offense arrests (including misdemeanors) would not be eligible for this kind of “automatic” expungement.”

Here’s attorney Carolyn Frazier explaining SB978 on Politics Tonight here.

BILLS WE SUPPORTED THAT STALLED

We also advocated for SB2760 this session. The bill stalled in the Senate.

SB2760:

Amends the School Code. Provides that (i) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right not to answer any question or to make any statement in the presence of a police officer; (ii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right to have a parent, a guardian, or an attorney present during such questioning or request for a statement; (iii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed that any information given in the presence of a police officer may result in an arrest and in the issuing of a summons and may be used in school discipline and in criminal prosecution; (iv) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of a student or of a request for a statement, the school principal shall approve the presence of the police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from the student; and (v) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from a student, a parent or guardian of the student must be given notification of the opportunity to be present during the questioning. Sets forth provisions concerning the notification, school principal and police officer consultation, and tracking and reporting data. Effective July 1, 2014.

BILLS WE OPPOSED THAT STALLED

We strongly and consistently opposed HB4775 which passed the House UNANIMOUSLY and thankfully stalled in the Senate.

As passed in the House, HB4775:

Allows a school board to suspend or authorize the superintendent of the district or the principal, assistant principal, or dean of students of a school to suspend a student for a period not to exceed 10 school days or to expel a student for a definite period of time not to exceed 2 calendar years, as determined on a case-by-case basis, if (i) the student has been convicted of (rather than charged with) a violent felony and (ii) the board or, as authorized by board policy, the superintendent of the district or the principal, assistant principal, or dean of students of the school determines that the student’s continued presence in school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school. Provides that the board may also authorize the superintendent of the district to immediately refer or transfer the student to another attendance center or alternative school if the student has been charged with a violent felony. Effective immediately.

We oppose this bill on the grounds that it simply feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.

Finally, those of you who support our work know that we spent all last year opposing a mandatory minimum gun bill (SB1342). The bill stalled in the House this session. Instead, the House and Senate passed HJR 96 which “creates the Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee to examine the impact of the current sentencing structure, ensure that the enforcement and punishment of crimes does not disproportionately or unfairly affect certain racial, ethnic, or minority groups, and propose solutions to address the issues that exist within the current sentencing system.”

We believe that the push for a mandatory minimum gun law is not dead and will eventually be resurrected at a later date. We are keeping our eyes and ears open and will be ready to mobilize should it be re-introduced in the Fall session.

We thank all of you for being so responsive to our calls to support and/or oppose various pieces of legislation that we view as either helpful or unhelpful in the struggle to dismantle the PIC. The struggle continues…

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