SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois State Board of Education has suspended the licenses of nearly 50 educators who have been charged with sex crimes, violent felonies or certain drug offenses, implementing a new law that seeks to strengthen student safety protections.
Board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said the agency had suspended at least 45 licenses as of Friday.
The school workers whose licenses were suspended under the law include teachers, coaches and administrators from about two dozen districts, and about half of them were based in Cook and the collar counties.
A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman did not respond to the newspaper’s questions about the new law or the teachers whose licenses were suspended.
Many of the teachers who lost their licenses were fired or they resigned after their arrests, while others remain employed but on leave.
Without a valid educator license, such individuals would be prohibited from working as paraprofessionals, teachers and academic administrators in Illinois public schools as their criminal cases continue. If acquitted of the charges, their teachers’ licenses can be reinstated.
Phillip Rogers, executive director of the National Association for State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, said the changes are a positive step forward.
“It’s closing a loophole, as far as I can see,” said Rogers, whose organization represents state boards and commissions in the U.S. that are responsible for the preparation, licensure and discipline of educators.
While most school officials interviewed support the new measure, lawyers for some of the teachers charged said the law infringed on their presumption of innocence.
State Rep. Steven Reick acknowledged during the bill’s third House reading in May that Illinois suffers from serious abuse by educators.
“We’ve just really begun the process of cleaning up what we found to be systemic problems, not only in the Chicago Public Schools system with regard to sexual abuse but, you know, frankly, statewide there are problems,” said Reick, one of the bipartisan bill’s numerous sponsors. “But the steps that we’re taking with this bill, I believe, will go a long way toward remedying a problem that we found had existed for decades.”