Protections for Student Witnesses in Teacher Dismissal Hearings Signed into Law

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Protections for Student Witnesses in Teacher Dismissal Hearings Signed into Law

Aug 2, 2023

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Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3592 into law on Friday, making it Public Act 103-0354. Effective January 1, 2024, this legislation will expand the availability of accommodations to protect students and minors from being intimidated, traumatized, or re-traumatized during hearings about the dismissal of a tenured teacher.

Currently, the Illinois School Code sometimes requires hearing officers to allow alternative forms of student testimony, such as testimony by phone. However, this requirement only applies when the charges against a teacher involve sexual abuse or “severe physical abuse” of a student or a minor. By contrast, under Public Act 103-0354, a student or minor witness cannot be compelled to testify in the presence of a teacher or other witness, regardless of what charges have been brought against the teacher. Instead, if a student or minor witness invokes this right, the hearing officer must provide an accommodation that allows each party to hear the witness’s testimony. The legislation also changes how cross-examination will work for students and minors in these hearings. Rather than allowing a teacher or their representative to directly question these witnesses, the legislation requires a hearing officer to have the teacher submit relevant questions to be posed by the hearing officer. Finally, Public Act 103-0354 provides that hearing officers who do not provide a required accommodation will be removed from the master list of hearing officers maintained by the Illinois State Board of Education for up to 24 months.

Our firm appreciates the partnership of Chicago Public Schools and ED-RED in developing and advocating for this bill to better protect students across the state. For questions about how this and other new legislation may apply to your school district, please contact your Robbins Schwartz attorney.