May 10, 2018

Educators for Excellence-Chicago Applauds the Illinois House of Representatives’ Passage of HR795 and HJR115, Prioritizing School Climate and Culture Statewide

May 10 (Chicago) - Educators for Excellence-Chicago (E4E-Chicago), a teacher-led organization, today applauded the Illinois House of Representatives’ passage of HR795 and HJR115. HR795 is a bipartisan House resolution urging Illinois to make school climate and culture a statewide priority, which is based on the research and recommendations created by E4E-Chicago educators. HJR115 is a joint resolution, originating from the House and urging the U.S. Department of Education to uphold the current federal discipline guidance regarding non-discriminatory practices. E4E-Chicago teacher members celebrated the House passage of these resolutions and the importance school climate and culture has on a student’s learning, and now urge the Senate to also adopt HJR115.

Charles Beavers, a special education teacher at Kozminski Elementary Community Academy in Chicagoand an E4E-Chicago member, applauded the House members who voted for the resolutions saying, “The trauma my students experience directly affects students’ behavior, their ability to learn and my ability to reach them in my classroom. HR795 and HJR115 are both important steps forward in the ongoing fight to provide high-quality education to the children of Illinois. Classrooms should be sanctuaries for our students, not portals to the criminal justice system. By passing these resolutions, our Illinois House of Representatives is acknowledging that climate and culture impact every student’s learning across the state.”

Additionally, Artemis Kolovos, a diverse learning teacher at Lyman A. Budlong Public School in Chicagoand an E4E-Chicago member, commended the House members who voted for HJR115 stating, “Students need to learn self-regulation and use calming strategies before feelings escalate into aggressive or self-harming behaviors. I have seen the benefits of restorative conversations between middle schoolers at my school. Not only do restorative practices encourage students to express themselves effectively, but they also preserve student dignity. What a wonderful, powerful concept in this day and age. I am grateful that our state representatives have shown they support the important work educators do in addressing students’ trauma in our classrooms using peaceful, non-exclusionary alternatives. I hope the Senate will do the same.”

State Representative Sonya Harper (D) of the Sixth District championed both resolutions, explaining, “In speaking with my colleagues from around the state, it is clear that while our students experience trauma differently, their lives outside of school directly influence their behaviors and thus shape a school’s climate and culture, for better or worse. Our school communities - from staff to families to neighbors to outside services - need proper resources and supports in order to best address traumatic stressors in children’s lives. Students need coping strategies and adults need training and support. This is how we break the exclusionary discipline cycle and teach our children interpersonal skills they can carry with them beyond their classroom walls.” 

“So often we think of violence being the catalyst for trauma. While this is true, issues like poverty, immigration concerns and substance abuse also take a toll on our students and therefore, can negatively impact their learning experiences,” said Acasia Wilson Feinberg, Executive Director of E4E-Chicago. “By the Illinois House passing HR795 and HJR115, our state assembly is recognizing the need to prioritize the climates and cultures of our schools and support teachers in addressing the root causes of disruptions in order to keep students learning. This develops trust, deepens relationships and builds a broader sense of community within the classroom, all of which are crucial in a student’s academic, social and emotional development. We look forward to the Senate’s passage of HJR115.”

E4E-Chicago educators have been advocating for school climate and culture-related issues since publishing their policy paper, “Sounding the Alarm: Building the Climate & Culture Our Students Need,” which was released last June. In response to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos potentially rescinding Obama-era discipline guidance, Educators for Excellence launched their In Class, Not Cuffs Campaign and brought six educators to Washington, D.C., to meet with the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary DeVos. E4E-Chicago members have been prioritizing recommendations on the individual school and district levels, meeting with education stakeholders and elected officials, holding citywide events, collecting signatures of support, sending messages to elected officials and publishing pieces in various media outlets stressing the importance of a school’s climate and culture on student learning.