• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 21, 2024


    Bill making teacher relationship with 18-year-old student a felony stalls in Senate  

    Rep. Amy Elik (R-Godfrey) speaks at a news conference in Springfield on Thursday. [Blue Room Stream]

    A bill that passed unanimously through the House in a rare move by Illinois lawmakers to create a new felony charge is hung up in the Senate.  

    The House voted 107-0 on April 19 to pass HB4241, which criminalizes a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student who is between ages 18 and 23 years old so long as the teacher is at least four years older than the student. Abuse by the teacher would be a Class A misdemeanor on the first offense, while abuse involving sexual penetration would be a Class 4 felony on the first offense.  

    Despite the bill’s unanimous support in the House, it has languished in the Senate Assignments Committee and doesn’t appear set to move forward. Four of the bill’s 17 sponsors are also Democrats.  

    “I am confident if given the chance to hear this bill, the Senate will pass it,” House sponsor Rep. Amy Elik (R-Godfrey) said at a news conference on Thursday.  

    A spokesperson for Senate Assignments Committee Chair Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) did not respond to a request for comment. 

    Elik lamented she would like the bill to include stronger penalties and not allow an age gap, but she said the bill was written to appease possible opposition to the bill.  

    “This is not an enhancement of a penalty,” Senate sponsor Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said. “This is actually filling in a hole, filling in a gap where we’ve missed it before.”  

    Bryant said the issue was brought to her by her district’s youth advisory council.  

    “Our kids cannot wait any longer to have this very serious issue addressed,” Bryant said. “I would like to be able to go home and tell those young people who have actually experienced this at their high schools that their lawmakers heard them and acted.” 

    Bryant pointed out the law already prohibits relationships between corrections officers and inmates, doctors, nurses and patients, and attorneys and clients.  

    “Why would that be different with a teacher at a very vulnerable age?” Bryant asked.  

    Elik is also trying to move forward HB1275 in the House, which prevents blaming a victim of sexual abuse for the incident. The bill’s new momentum comes after CBS-2 reported an expert witness being paid by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in a sexual abuse lawsuit said that sexual abuse is not always traumatic.  

    The story angered several lawmakers who blasted CPS in speeches on the House floor on Wednesday. Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-Chicago) called on CPS’ general counsel to be fired for bringing on the witness. He also criticized CPS’ handling of the employment of the teacher at the center of the lawsuit and CPS’ pressure to get the victim, who is now an adult and reporting an incident that happened nearly 20 years ago, to use her real name in the lawsuit rather than Jane Doe. 

    “We should all care,” Tarver said. “And there’s no way on God’s green Earth that a duly licensed attorney who takes the same exact oath we take when we’re sworn in … should ever put defending a case over what’s right.” 

    Tarver also called on Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to publicly address how the lawsuit is being handled by CPS. Tarver is now a co-sponsor on Elik’s bill.  

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