Bill requiring policies against racism in Illinois schools passes House

Stop sign on side of school bus
Photo: Robin Jonathan Deutsch/ Unsplash

(The Center Square) – An Illinois lawmaker has a goal to eliminate racism and discrimination in schools. 

State Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, filed Senate Bill 90. The measure, as amended by the House, requires Illinois school districts, excluding private religious schools, to create and maintain at least one written policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment against students based on race, color or national origin.

“A November 2021 report found that hate crimes in schools increased by 81% from 2016 to 2018,” West said. 

The Illinois Department of Human Rights would begin a model training program to prevent discrimination and harassment in elementary and secondary schools. 

During House floor debate, state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, said every school should be included.

“I’m struggling with a carve out for sectarian religious institutions with a requirement that would prohibit discrimination and harassment based on race, color and national origin,” Gong-Gershowitz said. 

West said his goal is to include every school in the state.

“I’m committed to it, but at the same time, I understand the separation of church and state, so it’s mainly for the freedom of free speech,” West said. 

The measure also would ban retaliation against students who submit complaints to school administrators. 

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said if you read between the lines, there is another motive involved.

“In the analysis it says that this is for teachers to grow in their skills for culturally responsive instruction, so if you’re against some of the culturally responsive teacher standards, you may want to take a look at this,” Wilhour said. 

The House passed an amendment to the bill by an 87 to 18 vote, and it now heads back to the Senate for concurrence. Legislators return Wednesday.  

Kevin Bessler
Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.

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