(The Center Square) – A bill that passed the Illinois Legislature requires school principals to report bullying to parents within 24 hours. Some opponents say that is not feasible.
House Bill 3425, sponsored by state Rep. Margaret Croke, D-Chicago, passed the Illinois House in March. The measure passed the Senate earlier this month. Some school associations opposed the bill, saying a 24-hour time limit puts an undue burden on schools.
Mark Klaisner, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, told The Center Square that the 24-hour deadline is not feasible.
“I could come up with 20 different scenarios where that doesn’t happen in 24 hours,” Klaisner said.
In conversations Klaisner has had this spring, he said school administrators tell him “we’re all about stopping bullying and working with parents.” The problem, he said, “is we can’t always ensure that there will be a 24-hour turnaround in reporting back to the parents, especially if the bullying is happening after school on social media.”
If a bullying report comes in on a Friday evening or a Saturday afternoon, principals need time to talk to people to determine what is going on, Klaisner said.
“If I were the principal who got a bullying report, I would go to the counselors and the social worker. I would talk to some of the teachers. Granted, I’d do that as quickly as possible because speed is critical,” he said.
Klaisner doesn’t see how such investigations can fit into a legislatively mandated timeline. Lawmakers could say “in an expedient fashion” or expect three days.
“But we can’t guarantee one day,” he said.
Klaisner said bullying has been taken seriously by Illinois schools for a number of years. Educators recognize that bullying not only can lead to suicide, it can also push a child to pick up a gun.
“When you learn about the stories of kids who become active shooters, it is almost always some version of bullying or harassment,” Klaisner said.
Every school in Illinois is required to have a bullying policy on file with the Illinois State Board of Education. School districts are required to review their bullying policy and procedures at least every other year. For the past two years, ISBE has provided $8 million a year to set up “social-emotional learning hubs” all across the state.
Bullying is prevalent in training. Coaches work with teachers on how to identify children who are struggling and how to handle bullying. The goal is to do a better job of recognizing kids who are traumatized, Klaisner said.
“Every district I know is trying to expand social-emotional learning. They are using additional dollars on mental health support, particularly social workers,” Klaisner said.
The school funding mechanism makes it easier for schools to have coaches and counselors and social workers in the buildings where they are charged with helping kids deal with the struggles of life.
“As a society, we are acknowledging the problems and now we need to do more to address these complex mental health issues,” Klaisner said.