By Sammie Reinstein, Summer Internship Communications Team
These bills make it easier on students to participate in religious traditions.
During this past legislative session, Representative Didech was the chief sponsor of two bills – HB160 and HB169 – that amend the School Code to better enable students to participate in their religions by relieving administrative barriers. Both of these bills were passed by the Illinois General Assembly on May 27, 2021. Currently awaiting Governor Pritzker’s signature, upon passing, these bills shall take effect immediately.
HB160 allows students to be excused from physical activity components of physical education classes during a religious fast, if the student’s guardian notifies the school principal in writing. This bill will help ensure student safety while respecting the many diverse cultures that make up our state. This bill was initially proposed by the Northern Illinois American Muslim Alliance with support from the Jewish Federation, the ACLU, and the Illinois State Board of Education.
HB169 excuses a child’s absence from public school due to religious reasons, like observance of a religious holiday or participation in religious instruction. This bill allows the district superintendent to create and distribute specific procedures for religious absences to schools, as opposed to allowing school boards to determine rules pertaining to religious absences. This bill was initially proposed by the Northern Illinois American Muslim Alliance with support from the Jewish Federation, Chicago Teachers Union, National Association of Social Workers – Illinois, and the Illinois State Board of Education.
These two pieces of legislation make it less difficult for students to more fully participate in their religions, reducing some of the administrative burdens and other stresses that may come with missing school classes.