Illinois's Response--HB 2663

In direct response to statements issued by DHS and DOE, the State of Illinois enacted HB 2663, which went into effect January 1, 2018. The bill was introduced by Rep. Juliana Stratton and Senator Kimberly Lightford (one of the primary sponsors of SB 100) and was signed into law by the Governor on August 14, 2017. Under PA 100-0105, early childhood programs receiving grant funding from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) are prohibited from expelling students. The law also lays out a number of steps that early childhood programs are required to take in response to challenging student behavior.

When early childhood education providers observe persistent and challenging behaviors, they must first document their initial observations and continue to document ongoing challenging behaviors. The provider's documentation of student behavior informs the additional steps required by the law, namely creating "strategies for remediation and intervention plans for addressing the behaviors," communicating with parents or guardians, and encouraging their participation in planning and decision-making. Following these initial steps, the program is required, after receiving parent or guardian consent, to engage community resources such as developmental screenings, referrals to other programs and services offered by local educational agencies, or consultation with mental health providers and child's healthcare providers. When the provider communicates these steps to parents or guardians, the law requires that the communication "take place in a culturally and linguistically competent manner."

Only after a program has taken these steps can it consider the planned transition of a student to a different early childhood program. The law allows for planned transitions, with parental consent, when the provider determines that a transition is necessary for the well-being of the child, his or her peers, or the program's staff. Additionally, the law also allows for temporary removal in case of serious threat or behavior enumerated in 105 ILCS 5/10-22.6(d), such as possession of a firearm or knife.

In essence, PA 100-0105 imposes a threefold analysis for a school or program to undertake as it initiates the planned transition of a student. Before a planned transition the school or program must show:

1) that there is documented evidence that all available interventions and supports recommended by a qualified professional have been exhausted;

2) that the current program determined that transitioning the student to another program is necessary for the well-being of the child or staff; and

3) that the school or program receives the consent of the parent or guardian. Only after this finding can the school or program meet with the pending program placement to create a transition plan ensuring continuity of services for the student.

The imposition of an exhaustion requirement on schools or programs sets a high threshold for planned transitions. This threshold is also present in the law's provision for temporary removals from a program. As discussed above, the law allows for temporary removals for serious safety threats and certain enumerated behaviors, but even a temporary removal triggers the same threefold analysis. In addition to this high threshold, the requirement that providers obtain parental/guardian consent before transitioning a student may preclude a program from moving the student at all. The law signals that removal is no longer the first step; rather, programs are required to document, intervene, and exhaust options before using any exclusionary discipline.

There are a number of other notable features of the law including its expansive coverage. The law expands its coverage to licensed day care centers, day care homes, and group day care homes. The law tasks the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) with creating rules to prohibit expulsions in these settings, but leaves discretion to DCFS as to what the rules ultimately look like. While the law is expansive, it does not extend to private preschools not receiving state funds. Additionally, the law imposes new data reporting requirements on early childhood programs. Starting on July 1, 2018, programs must report to ISBE the number of students it served, the number of planned transitions to another program disaggregated by categories such as race, gender, and disability, the number of temporary removals also disaggregated, and the hours of infant and early childhood mental health consultant contact with program staff and families.