School Boards in Illinois will be better able to ensure student safety while discussing building security under legislation guided through the Illinois House Thursday by State Representative Tom Bennett. House Bill 1498, Bennett’s first bill passing the House, ensures local school districts have the flexibility they need to thoroughly discuss measures to keep students and staff safe from threats of harm.
“The current language of the Open Meetings Act presented school boards with a serious dilemma. As they interpret the Act, it requires them to discuss security planning, including reports about where their buildings are specifically vulnerable, in open, public session. Obviously, that could put students and staff at risk and needs to be clarified.”
Representative Bennett’s legislation clarifies the existing exemption under the Illinois Open Meetings Act allowing closed-session discussions of “security procedures and the use of personnel and equipment to respond to an actual, a threatened, or a reasonably potential danger to the safety of employees, students, staff, the public, or public property.” This exemption, as it applies to school boards, has been interpreted by some to only allow for closed meetings to discuss actual, existing threats, not preventive planning.
House Bill 1498 clarifies the language in the Open Meetings Act to ensure school boards are permitted to discuss preventive security planning in closed meeting. The legislation now advances to the Senate for further consideration.
“This clarification ensures school boards can thoroughly review and discuss their buildings’ security without endangering students and staff. I’m gratified by my House colleagues’ unanimous support today,” Representative Bennett said.