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Tag: legislation

New Illinois law aims to head off another ‘horror’ attack like one on Elgin teacher (Sun-Times Media)

ELGIN — It was a scene witnesses described to The Courier-News at the time as “like out of a horror movie.”

Angel Facio of Elgin, then 16, threw a coat over teacher Carolyn Gilbert’s head as she sat at her Elgin High School desk grading papers, then repeatedly stabbed her with a steak knife until, witnesses said, the blade snapped off.

That’s a scene Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday he hopes will never be repeated in the state with the signing of a bill that will allow police to share juvenile criminal records with school officials when there is an imminent threat to individuals at the school.

Quinn signed House Bill 5602 into law Monday morning at the same school where Gilbert had been attacked in 2008.

“This is an important bill, not only for this school and this school district, but for all the schools in Illinois. We must maintain safety in the school room, in the classroom, so our teachers can do their job and instill knowledge in their students and help their students to achieve their goals,” the governor said.

School District U46 officials and school board member Jennifer Shroder, Elgin Mayor David Kaptain and city council members John Steffen and Tish Powell, Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda and representatives of other area police departments, and State Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, all attended the signing in the high school library.

Most notably, Gilbert and about 30 students from a U.S. history and a civics class stood with the governor as he signed the bill into law.

“I want to say on behalf of everybody in Illinois, we’re very proud of you. You’re a real hero to everyone in our state. Something really bad happened here, and we’re here today to make sure that never happens again. We’re also here to honor the good work of Carolyn Gilbert,” Quinn said.

The consumer sciences teacher broke into a smile as the governor whispered to her after the signing. She declined to speak publicly or to the press.

“This is a civics lesson our students rarely get to witness firsthand and we are honored to have you here at out fine school,” Elgin Principal Jerry Cook said, welcoming the governor to the high school.

“The lawmaking process can be a difficult one. The idea for a bill can be generated by lawmakers, through public advocacy and sometimes as a result of tragedy. Today’s bill signing is the result of a tragedy that occurred here at Elgin High School to one of our very own teachers, Carolyn Gilbert.”

For the rest of the story, read New Illinois law aims to head off another ‘horror’ attack like one on Elgin teacher (Sun-Times Media).

For more information about Quinn’s visit to the Elgin area and the two other bills he signed, read Quinn signs bills, cuts ribbon for Tollway project during visit (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

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Changes in the driver’s seat for student program (Sun-Times Media)

Recent new rules for driving — from outlawing texting to allowing disabled students to get a license — are leading to some equally major changes in driver’s education programs in Illinois.

And not all of those changes are being welcomed by the schools and their instructors.

No one seems to have a problem with regulations addressing the dangers of texting while driving, nor new technology that allows students with various disabilities to drive.

But there also are new requirements for driver’s ed teachers in public schools. Plus, a new Illinois law that could impact private, or commercial, driving schools went to Gov. Pat Quinn at the end of June. (See accompanying story.)

Added to that are severe financial strains in Illinois, all making some school districts rethink how they’ve offered the program.

“I think just the unfunded mandates and the schools being in a numbers crunch — that’s a big change for everybody,” said Jeff Bral, divisional head of driver’s education, physical education and health — as well as athletics director — at Bartlett High School.

For the rest of the story, read Changes in the driver’s seat for student program (Sun-Times Media).

For the accompanying story about changes that could impact commercial driving schools, read Commercial schools favor putting the brakes on pending bill (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media.

Biweekly Wrap-up: A human being, not a policy

“Look at it as a human being, not as a policy.”

That’s a quote from one of my articles last Sunday in The Courier-News. That’s also the theme of many of my articles that appeared in the newspaper over the past two weeks (admittedly, not many. I went to a beautiful wedding Friday evening, then spent Saturday through Wednesday with my family in Wisconsin.)

That’s the power of story. It’s easy to disagree, to become angry, to be negative about a policy. Those things become harder when you meet a human being impacted by that policy, when you hear his or her story.

“I wouldn’t mind if people were negative about it — as long as they understood. I don’t see how you could be negative about this after learning about this,” said David Miller, a student at Judson University in Elgin.

I interviewed Miller in April 2011 after he organized an experience at Judson called UN-Documented. That experience was meant to get students to think about “the way we interact with people who are immigrants and the way we show respect and love them,” according to UN-Documented creator Jesse Oxford.

Those words have stuck with me since then. They’re what come to mind when I write about, help people learn about new policies.

Like the cover story I wrote last week about the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act — and the people its measures already have impacted. And the cover story about the Obama administration’s decision not to deport young people brought illegally into the country by their parents — and the incredibly brave young people who may benefit from that.

Here are the other articles I’ve written over the past two weeks:

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media. (Non-blurry photo hopefully coming soon.)

Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media)

Happy Independence Day!

I’m just getting back from five days up at my family’s lake cabin in Wisconsin, doing all the things that make living in America great: getting baby licks from my nephew, cleaning a fish for the first time, roasting hot dogs and s’mores over a bonfire, melting in 100-degree heat. This article of mine ran in the meantime. And it reminded me how much I take for granted as an American citizen (and maybe you do, too).

Family is important to Leslie F.

That’s “where everything starts,” Leslie said. And without her family, she said, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

Literally.

When she was 9, her father emigrated to the area from Mexico. She, her mom and her sister followed a year later.

All since have become U.S. citizens or legal residents with help from the Hispanic social service agency Centro de Informacion in Elgin, Leslie said. All except her.

It’s not that the 27-year-old Schaumburg woman doesn’t want to become a citizen — she “definitely” does, said Leslie, who asked that her last name not be used. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago with a degree in justice studies, took the L-SAT and planned to attend law school.

“I always wanted to help people. As soon as I started with my major, I started becoming more interested in the juvenile court system,” Leslie said.

“The perfect way to get more involved in it is to become a lawyer and eventually be there to help them out. I want to focus on family and in juvenile.”

But without citizenship, without a Social Security number, she can’t get a scholarship or loan, making paying for law school impossible. She has submitted her citizenship paperwork, but she has at least a 12-year wait to get that, she said.

That’s a situation in which “so many” young people in the Elgin area find themselves, according to Jaime Garcia, executive director of Centro de Informacion.

And that is what is so important about President Obama’s announcement in mid-June that his administration would no longer deport the children of immigrants who came to the country illegally, without documentation, Garcia said.

“It’s important for me because it would allow me to pretty much finish my dream,” Leslie said.

It’s difficult to tell how many undocumented young people in the Fox Valley will be affected by the nation’s newest immigration policy. They are, after all, undocumented.

“I would venture to say even thousands,” Dave Richmond said.

Richmond is an immigration attorney with an office in downtown Aurora. In the week after Obama’s announcement, he said his phone rang off the hook.

So did the phones at Centro de Informacion offices in Elgin, Carpentersville and Hanover Park, Garcia said.

The Obama administration’s new policy could allow an estimated 1 million young immigrants across the U.S. to apply for “deferred action” on deportation orders and gain temporary work visas. It allows those who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are still under age 30, have earned a high school diploma or GED or served in the military and who have no criminal record to stay in the U.S. and to apply for documentation that will allow them to work legally.

“A number of people facing deportation — they graduated high school, they’re going to college,” Richmond said. “Their crime is that they were brought here as children by their parents, and this announcement would allow those people to stay here not with legal status, not with a green card, just to stay here and obtain work authorization.”

For the rest of the story, read Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media).

For more information about Centro de Informacion, read Centro celebrates 40 years of giving help in Elgin area (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media. Antlers divider by IROCKSOWHAT.

Locals split over Court ruling (Sun-Times Media)

ELGIN — Karen Haseman says her 23-year-old daughter spent “a scary three years” without health insurance.

It was scary, according to Haseman, because her daughter — who has Crohn’s disease — could not visit the emergency room until she was very sick.

The disease, an autoimmune disorder that usually attacks the intestines, meant she needed to see a doctor every six months to a year. It also meant it was difficult to get affordable health insurance after she turned 18 and no longer was covered on her mother’s policy, the Elgin woman said.

And that meant declaring bankruptcy as the emergency room bills stacked up, she said.

“We lived this for a long, long time. I’m happy about Obamacare,” Haseman said.

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” require health insurance providers to insure people with preexisting conditions, like Crohn’s disease. It also requires them to insure children up 26 years old on their parents’ policy, like Haseman’s daughter.

In an historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The 5-4 decision means the overhaul will continue to go into effect over the next several years, affecting the way Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care and extending it to more than 30 million uninsured person. That includes 2 million Illinoisans.

For the rest of the story, read Locals split over Court ruling (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Getty Images via Sun-Times Media.