LOGAN SQUARE — Gov. JB Pritzker has signed into law a bill that aims to prevent and properly respond to sexual misconduct in schools.
Faith’s Law, named for sexual abuse survivor Faith Colson, bans all forms of grooming in which adults lure children into sexual relationships. The bill also boosts protections for sexual abuse survivors and their families.
The law was two years in the making, but signed Friday amid a massive ongoing sexual abuse scandal at Logan Square’s Marine Leadership Academy.
“Students deserve to be safe in their classrooms, period,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Anything short of that is a call to action, and Faith’s Law is another critical step in creating and preserving safe and welcoming learning environments for all students.
Colson teamed up with Rep. Michelle Mussman, a Democrat representing suburban Schaumburg, on the legislation to close a loophole that allowed adults to groom students for inappropriate relationships. Colson was sexually abused by a teacher about 20 years ago while in high school in Schaumburg.
Before Faith’s Law, grooming in Illinois was defined as luring a child into unlawful sex using the internet. Now, that definition has been expanded to include in-person interaction and written communication.
Also under Faith’s Law, the Illinois State Board of Education is required to create a statewide resource guide for parents, “a centralized source of assistance and provide resources available to the parent or guardian of a student who is or may be the victim of sexual abuse,” according to the governor’s office.
The law also strengthens sexual abuse prevention, and response training for teachers and other school employees so staff can better identify misconduct and support students who have been abused.
Colson said in a statement she’s “hopeful that with these new measures, schools will be safer and futures will be brighter.”
The bill was signed a couple weeks after a Chicago Public Schools inspector general report exposed sexual abuse, misconduct, harassment and grooming at Marine Leadership Academy, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez pointed to the state law as one of the major challenges of the Marine Leadership Academy case. District officials allege that multiple adults groomed students for sexual relationships, but, in some cases, there was no indication sex acts occurred until students graduated and were legally adults. That meant there is little recourse to prosecute them, Martinez said.
On Friday, Martinez praised the law’s signing but didn’t mention the scandal.
“Every student has a right to feel safe and secure in our schools, and parents place their trust in our administration and our staff to create that safe environment,” Martinez said in a statement. “This is a sacred responsibility we share as CPS employees, and there is no tolerance for adults who break that trust and use their position to prey on students. These legislative changes provide us with important tools to protect students, hold adults accountable for misconduct, and create a culture of safety and transparency in all CPS schools.
“… Today’s progress is significant, but we know more must be done to protect students. CPS is looking forward to collaborating with lawmakers on additional student protections.”
The inspector general plans to release two additional reports revolving around Marine Leadership Academy in the coming weeks — one with more abuse allegations and the other about “systemic and school culture issues.”
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