Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Illinois High School System

High school is no cakewalk, and graduation is possible only after a student overcomes many challenges. From dealing effectively with bullies to addressing mental health deficits and overcoming academic struggles, there are countless hurdles that a high school student in Illinois must triumph over before they can graduate. As a parent, you can only do your best to guide your child to succeed.

When students in Illinois face serious discipline from educators, they may face the threat of an alternative educational path. These paths can serve as glaring blemishes on your child's record. You generally want to avoid enrolling your child in alternative disciplinary education tracts when possible.

An attorney-advisor serving Illinois will fight for the best interests of your child. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has found that many mistakes made in high school are correctable, at least with the proper person seeking a solution. On the other hand, allowing your child to enroll in an alternative education path without a fight can have long-term implications for their quality of life.

The State of Illinois Holds the Power to Expel and Reassign Your Child

Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) Sec. 13-43.11 states that the Illinois State Board of Education “shall have the power and the authority to assign to schools within the district and to expel or suspend pupils for disciplinary purposes or to assign or reassign them as the needs of the district or the pupil shall be determined best.”

Do you believe that the Illinois State Board of Education, or you, the parent, knows what is best for your child?

Unfortunately, prevailing statutes grant the state of Illinois great power to determine where your child goes to school, especially if they have a negative disciplinary record. Still, there may be ways to avoid your child being reassigned to a reform-style program in Illinois.

If you read it, you'll notice that the statute referenced above is littered with language like “Department of Juvenile Justice,” “ward,” and “inmate.” These terms indicate the sort of stigma that can come with enrollment in an alternative school.

What Types of Alternative Programs Does Illinois Send Students To?

Illinois School Code Section 13A-3 called for the establishment of at least one “alternative school education program” per “educational service region.” Students like your child may be assigned to an alternative program based largely on geography, meaning that your child could very well be relegated to a bad or even dangerous alternative program simply because it is the closest to their home or school district.

Left to its own devices, the state of Illinois generally has the discretion of what type of facility to send your child to. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments explains that students disciplined by their school district may be required to take their courses in the form of:

  • Evening school
  • Summer school
  • Vocational training courses
  • Community college courses (if applicable)
  • GED preparation courses
  • Work experience courses

The options that the Board of Education considers for your child may be specific to your child's circumstances. Illinois' Regional Safe School Program (RSSP) serves as a clear example of one type of alternative program your child may be assigned to. Established in 1997, RSSP is “a system of alternative education programs for disruptive students.”

RSSP programs are guided by a “set of guidelines” steered towards outcomes like:

  • Ensuring regular course attendance
  • Reducing disruptive behavior
  • Ensuring completion of coursework
  • Moving the student towards graduation

Sounds positive, right?

While RSSP and other alternative education options in Illinois may have positive results for certain students, your child may not be one of them. In many cases, these alternative education programs leave a stain on your child's record and may significantly harm their chances of gaining entry to a quality university.

Requirements for the Establishment of an Alternative Education Program in Illinois

ILCS 105-5-13B-25 lists the requirements for approval of an alternative education program in Illinois. Those who wish to establish such a program must:

  • Present a description of the program and the students it aims to serve
  • Present a staffing plan
  • Lay out a general schedule for students
  • Present a plan for using any grant funds provided by the state of Illinois
  • Put forth a program budget
  • Present a cost-per-student estimate
  • Present a plan for assessing students' academic performance and behavior

You'll notice that most of these requirements don't pertain to the type or quality of education your child could receive. That's because these schools are focused on discipline first, and education may only be the secondary concern.

Why Might My Child Be Sent to an Alternative Education Program in Illinois?

105 ILCS 5/10-22.6 (b-20) notes that “Out-of-school suspensions of 3 days or less may be used only if the student's continuing presence in school would pose a threat to school safety or a disruption to other students' learning opportunities.” In order to demonstrate that a student should face a long-term suspension, exclusion, expulsion, or reassignment, the state may need to meet a similar threshold.

The statute notes that schools may exercise their discretion on a case-by-case basis,