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In recent years, there has been a growing awareness and concern about the issue of educator sexual misconduct in schools. One significant development addressing this concern is Faith’s Law, named after prevention advocate and survivor Faith Colson, who faced sexual abuse during her time in an Illinois high school in the early 2000s.

The Origin of Faith’s Law

Faith’s Law is a result of Faith Colson’s determination to bring about change in the wake of her traumatic experiences. Having been sexually abused by a teacher at her high school, Faith discovered that several adults within the school were aware of the inappropriate relationship but failed to take proper action. This led her to advocate for amendments to state laws related to educator sexual misconduct in K-12 schools.

Public Act 102-0676: A Milestone in Prevention

The first part of Faith’s Law, known as Public Act 102-0676, became effective on December 3, 2021. It marked a significant milestone by establishing the definition of sexual misconduct within the School Code. The legislation mandated schools to develop and post employee code of professional conduct policies, including the definition of sexual misconduct. Additionally, it required the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to create a resource guide for schools to distribute to pupils, parents/guardians, and teachers.

Public Act 102-0676 also broadened the definition of “grooming” in the Illinois Criminal Code, added “grooming” to the list of behaviors qualifying a child as an “abused child” under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, and introduced professional development training opportunities for educators renewing their professional licenses.

Public Act 102-0702: Strengthening Prevention Measures

The second part of Faith’s Law, Public Act 102-0702, is set to take effect on July 1, 2023. This legislation focuses on preventing sexual misconduct by school employees, substitute employees, and employees of contractors (especially relevant for staffing firms). It introduces employment history reviews as part of the hiring and vetting process, ensures that parents/guardians and students receive notifications in cases of alleged sexual misconduct, and outlines the procedures schools must follow when handling such allegations.

One critical aspect of Public Act 102-0702 is the obligation for district superintendents to report any reasonable cause to believe a license holder has committed an act of sexual misconduct. The state superintendent of education can then initiate the process to revoke or suspend a license, endorsement, or approval issued under Article 21B for reasons related to sexual misconduct.

The Goals of Faith’s Law

Public Act 102-0702 aims to achieve several crucial goals, including providing parents/guardians with timely notice of allegations involving their students, equipping schools with comprehensive information about the employment history of applicants or contractor employees, empowering schools to make informed decisions about employment/contracting, and most importantly, safeguarding students from acts of sexual misconduct by school personnel.

How Faith’s Law Affects Staffing Firms:

For staffing agencies, the second part of Faith’s Law, Public Act 102-0702, becomes particularly relevant as it focuses on the prevention of sexual misconduct by school employees, substitute employees, and employees of contractors. Here’s how this legislation applies to staffing agencies:

  1. Employment History Reviews: Staffing agencies must integrate employment history reviews into their hiring and vetting processes. This involves a thorough examination of an applicant’s past employment, especially in educational settings, to identify any previous instances of sexual misconduct or concerns. This can be especially burdensome to small and midsize staffing firms that don’t have a robust back office operation, which is driving many to work with an Employer of Record (EOR).
  2. Notification Requirements: When allegations of sexual misconduct arise, staffing agencies need to be aware of their role in the notification process. Ensuring that parents/guardians and the affected student receive timely and accurate information is crucial. Staffing agencies should collaborate closely with educational institutions to facilitate this communication.
  3. Handling Allegations: Staffing agencies must familiarize themselves with the procedures outlined in Public Act 102-0702 regarding the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. This includes cooperating with investigations and maintaining transparency throughout the process.
  4. Reporting Obligations: District superintendents have a duty to report any reasonable cause to believe a license holder has committed an act of sexual misconduct. Staffing agencies must be proactive in sharing relevant information and cooperating with authorities during such investigations.

The Role of Staffing Agencies in Promoting Safety

Faith’s Law places a significant responsibility on staffing agencies to play a proactive role in promoting safety within educational institutions. By implementing stringent hiring and vetting processes, fostering transparency, and adhering to the reporting obligations outlined in the legislation, staffing agencies can contribute to creating environments where students are protected from the risk of educator sexual misconduct.

In conclusion, Faith’s Law not only sets new standards for schools but also necessitates a paradigm shift in the practices of staffing agencies involved in the education sector. By embracing these changes, staffing agencies can actively contribute to the broader goal of safeguarding students and ensuring the integrity of the educational environment in Illinois.

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