Governor Signs HB 4316, Imposing New Requirements on Schools Concerning Employee Sexual Misconduct Toward Students

By June 16, 2022July 28th, 2022News, The Extra Mile Newsletter

On April 22, 2022, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 4316 into law. The law (P.A. 102-0702) becomes effective on July 1, 2023, and imposes several new requirements on schools aimed at preventing sexual misconduct in schools. Key parts of the law are highlighted below.

New Reporting Requirement

As an initial matter, the law will require the superintendent to notify the State Superintendent of Education and the applicable regional superintendent of schools in writing if the superintendent has reasonable cause to believe that a license holder committed an act of “sexual misconduct” toward a student that resulted in the license holder’s dismissal or resignation. Under current law, superintendents are required to make this report when they have a reasonable belief a license holder caused a student to become an abused or neglected child, as defined in the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”). This new law expands the reporting requirement to incidents of suspected “sexual misconduct” as defined in Section 22-85.5 of the School Code.

Dovetailing with the new reporting requirement, the law also updates provisions of the School Code related to ISBE’s authority to suspend or revoke a teacher’s license. The law provides that ISBE may suspend or revoke a teacher’s license for committing an act of “sexual misconduct” as defined in Section 22-85.5 of the School Code.

Parental/Student Notification

The law also will require public school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools to adopt a procedure under which notice concerning an alleged act of sexual misconduct between an educator and a student is provided to the student who is the potential victim and then to the parents/guardians of that student. The law further requires notice to the student and parents/guardians when the district, charter school, or nonpublic school takes formal action after completing an investigation of sexual misconduct, including whether the school took action to terminate employment or accept a resignation. The law prescribes the content that must be included in the notice.

Employment History Reviews

Additionally, the law will require public and nonpublic schools and contractors to conduct an employment history review of applicants for employment who will have “direct contact with children or students.” This employment history review is in addition to conducting any required criminal background check. Specifically, the law provides that prior to hiring an applicant who will have direct contact with children or students, the school or contractor must:

  • Confirm it has no knowledge of information that would disqualify the applicant from employment;
  • Require applicants to swear or affirm they are not disqualified from employment;
  • Require applicants to complete a template form that will be developed by ISBE that includes all of the following:
    • A list of the applicant’s current employers
    • All former employers that were school or school contractors at which the applicant had direct contact with children or students;
    • Authorization by the applicant for current and former employers to release certain information related to the applicant’s employment;
    • A written statement of whether the applicant was ever the subject of a sexual misconduct allegation, asked to resign, disciplined, or terminated as the result of a sexual misconduct allegation, or ever had their license suspended or revoked as a result of a sexual misconduct allegation. This information must be disclosed by the applicant unless the allegations were determined unfounded.

After receiving this information from the applicant the school or contractor must contact all of the employers identified by the applicant and request information using a template form that ISBE will prepare. Employers who receive a request for information will have 20 days to disclose the requested information, using the ISBE template. If the employer has information related to confirmed allegations of sexual misconduct, the employer must provide all related records to the requesting school or contractor. The law provides immunity to schools and contractors that disclose information required under the law.

This law places significant new obligations on schools, and its requirements must be implemented in addition to those imposed by overlapping laws that have their own reporting and investigation requirements, including ANCRA and Title IX. Although the law is not effective until July 1, 2023, schools should begin taking steps now to develop the procedures that will need to be in place to implement the law’s requirements.

For any questions or additional information, contact an attorney in our Labor/Personnel practice group or Students/Special Education practice group.

Source: P.A. 102-0702 (eff. July 1, 2023)