Springfield, IL – State Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) today filed legislation to protect students from predatory educators and ensure accusations against educators are managed properly with the best interests of students in mind. House Bill 5914 makes numerous changes in state law to address the flaws and gaps in legislation and policy that led to Chicago Public School’s gross mishandling of sexual abuse and assault cases that occurred at schools within the district.

“The mistakes made by the schools in Chicago are reprehensible; nothing like this should ever be allowed to happen again,” Rep. McSweeney said. “These cases were handled atrociously by CPS and they were allowed to get away with it because of shortcomings in state law. The Chicago Tribune’s investigation unveiled that while this is a significant issue in Chicago, this is also a statewide problem.”

A Chicago Tribune investigation identified 72 school employees as alleged perpetrators in the last decade in schools all across Chicago. They found that CPS conducted shoddy background checks, which led to the hiring of educators with red flags in their records, several of whom went on to commit abuses at CPS schools. Among those that left CPS after being investigated, several were rehired elsewhere. 

HB 5914 mandates that the Illinois State Board of Education must be aware of, and monitor, the process with regard to each individual background check conducted by school districts. It also amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow school districts to disclose the disciplinary records of school district personnel relating to sexual abuse. It further allows a school district to divulge internal investigative findings and discipline to another school district. Any arresting agency is required to share its reports pertaining to the arrest of a licensed educator with the superintendent of any school district that employs the educator.

In addition, the Tribune’s investigation found significant failures in the way individual schools and the overall district handled cases of sexual abuse. CPS admitted that they do not have a standard protocol for investigating reports of sexual misconduct. HB 5914 will require school boards to report all credible cases of sexual assault or abuse by a licensed educator to the State Board of Education, to establish a hearing procedure for student victims, and to ensure that a licensed educator under investigation by the State Superintendent of Education is reassigned to non-classroom duty. 

Modeled off a Florida law, the bill would also make it a criminal offense for an authority figure to engage in sexual conduct or sexual relations with a student, regardless of age.

“This isn’t just on CPS, these failures exist in state government as well and need to be fixed as soon as possible,” Rep. McSweeney continued. “This comprehensive legislation is a solid start and a good base that we can amend as further policy recommendations are given or more legislative gaps come to light.”

The bill was drafted by Rep. McSweeney and State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park). State Representative Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) is the chief co-sponsor in the Illinois House.