Governor signs Keicher-sponsored bill into law adding safeguards to protect students against sexual abuse

Fulfilling a commitment made as a result of his service on the Make Sexual Abuse Fully Extinct (Make S.A.F.E.) Task Force to protect students from sexual abuse in school, State Representative Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, is pleased to announce that House Bill 1975, also known as Faith’s Law, was signed into law on Friday by Governor Pritzker. The legislation adds safeguards by expanding the definition of grooming in the criminal code, increasing resources and protections for sexual abuse survivors and their families, and requiring school districts to develop a sexual misconduct code of conduct, review employment history, and increase training for educators. 

“We listened, we brainstormed, and we came together not as Republicans or Democrats, but as mothers and fathers from all walks of life dedicated to one purpose, eradicating the sexual abuse and exploitation of Illinois students,” Rep. Keicher said. “Serving on the task force, we were deeply troubled by the harrowing revelations of sexual abuse in the Chicago Public Schools system in recent years and the need to make absolutely certain that we close the gaps in protecting children from this day forward. I co-sponsored Faith’s Law, named for victims’ advocate and sexual abuse survivor Faith Colson, and worked with the State Board of Education and my colleagues in the legislature to get this bill passed and onto the Governor’s desk this year. I am immensely gratified that our efforts will provide children with the protection and support they need in school settings.”

The legislation closes a prior loophole and expands protections for students by expanding the definition of grooming to include acts performed in-person, through direct communication or a third party, or written communication. Under previous law, grooming only included internet-based communication. 

The law requires the Illinois State Board of Education to create a parent resource guide, which would serve as 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. Schools are required to notify parents of the guide at the start of each school year and provide copies to parents by request.

Educators will also receive training on the physical and mental health needs of students, student safety, educator ethics, professional conducts, and other topics regarding students’ well-being. This will help teachers and staff identify misconduct while being aware of how to best support students.

School districts are also required to develop an employee code of professional conduct policy that addresses grooming and other forms of sexual misconduct. They are required to post the policy on the school’s website and in any handbook provided. A violation of that policy would subject an employee to disciplinary action, including termination of employment.