Jun 15, 2023 - Education

Illinois' new anti-bullying law gets parents involved sooner

Illustration of a twenty-four-hour timer on a cell phone surrounded by angry emojis.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Illinois' public, private, and charter schools are now required to inform parents and guardians sooner if their child is involved in bullying.

Driving the news: Gov. JB Pritzker last week approved an update to the state's anti-bullying law that shortens the window schools have to contact parents if their student is bullying, or the target of bullying, to 24 hours — up from 10 days.

Why it matters: Supporters say the 24-hour notification change will enable parents to intervene more quickly.

  • The bill also creates a fund for cyber-safety education in schools.

Zoom in: Chicago Public Schools already had a bullying reporting standard of one school day.

  • "We were proud to develop an anti-bullying policy that went even further than what was previously required by state law," a CPS spokesperson tells Axios.
  • The district is "committed to reviewing the updated state law to determine what, if any, updates are needed to ensure our policy complies."

What they're saying: Many parents don't know when their kids are involved in bullying at school or online, Rob Bronstein tells Axios.

  • Bronstein and his wife, Rose, have been pushing for clearer legislative language since last year after their 15-year-old son Nate died by suicide. Nate, a student at Latin School of Chicago, was relentlessly cyberbullied, his parents say.
  • The Bronsteins sued Latin, alleging teachers at the school knew about their son's bullying but didn’t contact them about it early enough.
  • Latin School didn't respond to Axios with comment, but it has called the allegations of wrongdoing "inaccurate and misplaced."

Between the lines: The Bronsteins say the updated legislation still isn't clear enough about what the repercussions are for schools that don't follow the law.

  • A spokesperson for the bill's sponsor, Rep. Margaret Croke, tells Axios that if a school fails to comply, its charter would be at risk.

Alison Maley from the Illinois Principals Association told Capitol News the group is concerned schools won't have the resources to comply with the 24-hour rule.

  • Maley wonders what it "would mean for an administrator if they happen to see an email at 4 o’clock on a Saturday. [Or] if they are out of town, if they’re on vacation."

Of note: The state's anti-bullying legislation was first written more than a decade ago, and some of its language is outdated.

  • "Facsimile communications" and "creation of a webpage or weblog" are included under the definition of cyberbullying.

What's ahead: The Bronsteins are working with Disparti Law Group to provide pro bono services for families seeking litigation if their child is bullied.

  • They'll also keep working with legislators to strengthen anti-bullying laws in Illinois. "Even if it saves just one child, then I will call that a win," Rose Bronstein says.
  • "What I don't want to happen is that the legislators in Illinois say, 'OK, we did our job.' There's a lot more to do."

If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat with someone at 988lifeline.org. En español.

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