State adds amendments to disciplinary law

Cassidy Foronda, asst. news editor

State legislation that required Illinois schools to re-evaluate their disciplinary policies have added amendments since its passage that went into effect Sept. 15.

The law passed on Aug. 24, 2015 and had already set precedent to limit suspensions and expulsions by eliminating zero-tolerance policies, requiring the availability of support services for affected students and teacher education on school discipline. According to, the official website of the Illinois General Assembly, it now specifies that the removal of a student from their classes must only be used if other “interventions have been exhausted” and if that student’s presence would “pose a threat” or “interfere with the operation” of the school.

According to Dean Ronald Bean, District 225 has known about the law’s proposition for a number of years and as a result was able to discuss its potential impact before passage. Additionally, Bean says that every year the Board of Education looks at their policies and assesses the data to determine their effectiveness, so minimal changes are necessary as a result of the amendments.

“[South doesn’t] suspend a lot of kids out of school in the first place, which is a good thing,” Bean said. “Nobody ever feels good about suspending [students] […] It’s kind of the last option.”

According to Principal Lauren Fagel, the recent amendments have not changed the way South approached the law initially, though their prohibition of policies such as prescriptive discipline are beneficial because they require every student’s case to be examined independently.

“We have to look at every individual as an individual,” Fagel said. “There’s a lot of logic to [the law] because there’s no research to support that out of school suspensions to any good. In fact […] usually what they do is give kids more time to be on their own, unsupervised, doing what they did in the first place to get in trouble.”

Additionally, Bean says that the existence of the law in the first place brings up the question of restorative justice, where students who make decisions that warrant punishment such as suspensions and expulsions, are able to come back from their faults.

“I think that there’s a huge difference between a bad kid and a poor choice,” Bean said. “People can come back from [poor choices].”

Senior Rex Lee, who was suspended out of school for one year, says that the law may improve student experiences, particularly for those who may not understand the severity of the punishments until they experience them.

“[Younger students] don’t understand the gravity of the situation [until] they get kicked out,” Lee said. “Having the situation be a little less worse, their future prospects might be a little bit better.”

Though GBS policies may not be as heavily impacted, Fagel says that the law opens up the interesting topic of suspensions and expulsions nationwide, which disproportionately affect Latino, black, low-income and disabled students.

“[The law] won’t change our life here as much as it will in schools that are just like, ‘suspend, suspend, suspend’ everyday,” Fagel said.

According to Fagel, for schools that do experience significant gang, drug and overall discipline issues, the law will result in change. She says that the shift in policy will be difficult for those schools to implement due to outside perception.

“A lot people are going to say, ‘Well now you’re being soft on [students], you’re not being strict enough,’” Fagel said. “But the thing is [that] being strict [keeps] kids out of school and that never worked. If [out of school suspensions] did work, we wouldn’t be having the same issues [we are] having.”