Background to the Legislation

Illinois has made a number of school discipline reforms in recent years. In 2015, Illinois passed SB 100 (now PA 99-0456) into law, eliminating zero-tolerance policies and declaring exclusionary discipline a last resort. Yet, there still remained a gap in addressing school discipline in early childhood programs. While SB 100 applied to school district programs, many early childhood programs receive state funding, but are not run by a school district and do not fall under SB 100's coverage.

Aside from the coverage gap, the law addresses the notable challenges faced by discrete groups of students in preschool. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights released data for 2013-14 school year finding that black preschool children were 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as their white classmates. Hispanic and black boys represent nearly 65% of preschool boys suspended. National research suggests that these types of discipline disparity are not explained by differences in student behavior. Additionally, in 2014, black girls represented 20% of preschool enrollment, but accounted for over 50% of students receiving one or more out of school suspensions.

Research shows that exclusionary school discipline in early childhood programs can have lifelong impacts. The joint policy statement issued by DHS and DOE cites research that students who are expelled or suspended from preschool are up to ten times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative school attitudes, and face incarceration than those who are not. In addition, there is no research or data that supports the effectiveness of exclusionary discipline. These findings are especially unfortunate as the students who are most often formally or informally pushed out of preschool are the ones who generally would make the largest academic gains from high quality preschool programs.