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Measure to make Illinois student records permanent to be amended


(The Center Square) – A measure introduced by Illinois state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, looks to change what is traditionally included in a student’s “record” and would do away with destruction of the temporary record and make it permanent.

Laura Hart with the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission’s Special Education Initiative, recently testified before the Senate Education Committee. Hart said otherwise eligible individuals for disability benefits through the Illinois Department of Human Services are turned away because they can’t prove “age of onset.”

“For the overwhelming majority of individuals seeking DHS benefits, the documentation to prove age of onset are contained in the person’s school records,” said Hart.

DHS has expressed its approval of Senate Bill 3166. The bill goes beyond keeping track of a student’s attendance. It adds things like psychological evaluations and information about a student’s intelligence and personality. State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, raised concerns about the language in the bill. Koehler said he will be amending the measure.

“My question is on the amendment … what would that amendment say?” asked Bryant.

“Well, the amendment is going to clarify and narrow down the scope of this,” said Koehler.

“So it would identify the scope, who stores the records and who has access to the records?” said Bryant.

The Center Square asked Koehler if narrowing the bill included extending the “permanent record” status to only disabled students.

“That’s going to be a part of the amendment. The idea is that … if someone has a disability, if it’s recorded early in their career, it may be that they don’t need to actually prove that until they’re 60 years old and if the record doesn’t exist then they have a hard time getting some of those benefits [from DHS],” said Kohler.

State Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel, R-Plainfield, a former special education teacher, said she understands why the bill was brought forward but is concerned about privacy issues.

“I do know there are privacy issues, and there may be students who were in inclusion that don’t want the IEP [Individualized Education Plan] or those private records in the general record,” Loughran Cappel said. “What are you going to do about that?”

The bill was brought forward because adults with disabilities are running into an eligibility roadblock when trying to obtain benefits from the DHS.

“In the state of Illinois we have a Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act. In that statute it provides who can get records for the person with a developmental, intellectual disability or mental illness. I would envision something like that. It’s fairly restrictive,” director of the Office of State Guardian Barry Lowy said.

Prior to Lowy working with the Office of State Guardian, he used to handle cases where he’d work with individuals seeking disability benefits. Lowy told the story of a man who was denied benefits.

“He came to us by referral of a pastor,” Lowy said. “We suspected this gentleman to have a mild intellectual disability … and he was sent for a psychological evaluation and it was confirmed he was intellectually disabled. They denied him because he couldn’t prove age of onset, so we tried to get his special education records and they were destroyed.”

School records are considered reliable evidence when trying to prove age of onset. Koehler’s proposal would stop a district from destroying a student’s record after five years and extend it to 60 years.