CHICAGO - Saturday, Illinois Governor Quinn signed into law a measure that will require the state's private schools to hold annual meetings with local law enforcement and fire departments to review the school's emergency plans.
State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Oak Lawn) told Illinois Review Monday that the required drill reviews are not meant for home schools, but for traditional private schools like the many in his district that are affiliated with the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese.
Home schools in Illinois are considered the same as private schools, so some concerns were raised on whether parents would be required to now adhere to this law.
"We have no intention of home schools having to put together an exit strategy or safety drill for the students taught in their homes," he said. "We don't need the local fire department okaying whether they exit through their family rooms or somewhere else."
The section of the Illinois School Code where SB 2710 will be added defines a "private facility" as exempting home-based schools.
"Our schools have been holding safety drills for years," Zach Wichmann of the Catholic Conference told Illinois Review. "This simply requires those plans be approved and coordinated with local law enforcement."
The legislation also specifically protects school districts and schools from any costs of consultants or plans that are required to obey the new law.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our classrooms safe,” Governor Quinn said in a statement after signing SB 2710 into law. “Preparation and knowledge are part of that curriculum – preparing for emergencies we hope will never occur, and knowing what to do if confronted with a crisis.”
“Parents need to have confidence that their children will be safe throughout the school day and kids should be able to focus solely on their studies,” State Schools Superintendent Christopher A. Koch said. “These new laws provide the impetus and resources to make schools safer.”
A law proposed and signed by Governor Quinn last year requires all school districts to conduct an annual safety drill, in conjunction with law enforcement officials, which prepares students for potential shooting situations. That law requires public school districts to do an annual review in light of that drill of each school’s emergency and crisis plans and procedures.