KAREN ANN CULLOTTA Chicago Tribune
Will County resident Susan Eisenbrandt wiped away tears this week when she learned that her son, Mark, will be allowed to stay in her neighborhood high school for an additional five months after his 22nd birthday.
Under a previous law, Mark, 21, who suffers from autism and seizure disorders, was reportedly abruptly removed from the special education transition program at Lincoln-Way School District 210 on December 9, when he was 22. years. But the legislation signed this week by Governor JB Pritzker means he can stay on to complete the school year.
“I’m so happy… It’s been a battle, and finally the hard work is done,” said Susan Eisenbrandt.
Pritzker enacted House Bills 40 and 2748 at Southside Occupational Academy High School in Chicago on Wednesday, allowing special education students like Mark to stay in class until the end of the school year in which they were 22 years old instead of aging out of service on their birthday.
The package also allows special education students who recently turned 22 who have been affected by COVID-19 to remain eligible for educational services until the end of the regular 2021-2022 school year.
“I firmly believe that a fundamental principle of governance is to ensure that our laws are benevolent to the people they are meant to serve. And there’s nothing nice about taking a disabled student out of class on October 16, January 5, or April 19, just because they’ve aged a day, ”said Pritzker.
“This doesn’t happen to general education students, and it shouldn’t happen to our students with special needs either,” said Pritzker.
State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents parts of Chicago and the southwest suburbs, and a co-sponsor of the legislation, said the new law “corrects a long-standing wrong.”
State Representative Fran Hurley, Democrat of Chicago and co-sponsor of the bill, added, “Every student deserves the opportunity to graduate with their class, enjoying the rite of passage of saying goodbye to their friends. and its teachers during the school year. “
A second new law, House Bill 2748, allows special education students to remain eligible for services until the end of the regular school year 2021-2022 if they have turned 22 during the period of their teaching, their services or in-person activities were suspended for at least three months during the school year due to the pandemic, officials said.
The legislation will give students a chance to recoup “critical in-person instruction time in the classroom and the transition to services for adults with special needs,” state officials said.
At Township High School District 214, based in Arlington Heights, officials estimate that 15 to 20 special education students will now be allowed to complete the school year in which they turn 22.
Nationally, the Disability Education Act requires states to provide free public education to eligible children with disabilities in the United States.
As of the 2018-19 school year, public agencies have provided early intervention, special education and related services to more than 7.5 million infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, according to the US Department. education.
By allowing students to complete the school year in which they are 22, Illinois is going beyond what is required by federal law, said Laurie VanderPloeg, associate executive director of professional affairs at the Council for Exceptional Children, based in Alexandria, Virginia.
For young adults between the ages of 18 and 21, many U.S. high schools offer bridging programs that teach life skills ranging from housekeeping and cooking to job training and community employment opportunities, VanderPloeg said.
“I think it’s important to highlight how hard local school districts are working to collaborate with families who have infants, toddlers, children and young adults in special education programs,” he said. said VanderPloeg.
About 80 miles southwest of Chicago, in Manhattan, Ill., Susan Eisenbrandt said the new laws would also allow her to continue working as a program assistant for special education students at her school. district.
Before the new law, Eisenbrandt said she probably should have quit her job because her son couldn’t have been home alone.
“This new law was so necessary for students like my son,” Eisenbrandt said.
See the new Illinois laws that came into effect on July 1