Governor Bruce Rauner

CHICAGO – Governor Bruce Rauner today released an open letter to school districts and higher learning institutions on opportunities to address acts of discrimination and bigotry in academic environments. The letter, sent through the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), urges educational institutions to develop proactive strategies aimed at preventing acts of hate before they occur.

“Acts of bigotry and hate have no place in our society. All of us need to come together and take the necessary measures to ensure that our schools, colleges, and universities are safe and welcoming environments for students,” said Governor Rauner. “Our administration stands strongly with educational institutions across Illinois as they expand opportunities to prevent these acts.”

In addition to suggested preventative measures for educational institutions, the Rauner Administration is pledging that IDHR, in partnership with the State Board of Education, the Illinois Community College Board, and the State Board of Higher Education, will investigate any and all reports of discriminatory acts occurring in academic settings.

“Illinois has long been a leader in challenging discrimination and ensuring that hateful, unlawful actions are not tolerated,” said IDHR Acting Director Janice Glenn. “We are committed to assisting administrators, educators, and students in setting a strong example for our communities by condemning discriminatory acts.”

Administration officials recommend that institutions establish and implement sound and consistent policies that address discrimination and promote equal opportunity. Preventative strategies could include consistent review and dissemination of bullying, harassment, and anti-discriminatory policies, training on recognizing and acting on the signs of students being victims of discrimination, ensuring clear lines of communication, being aware of actions that could occur outside of institutional settings, and developing programs to promote cultural understanding.

“Through an ongoing collaboration, we intend to continue engagement with educational leaders and stakeholders on how to promote welcoming and supportive learning spaces throughout the state,” said Secretary of Education Beth Purvis. “Continued success in identifying best practices requires open lines of communication between state agencies and educational institutions.

Story and Open Letter as submitted by Eleni Demertzis, Office of the Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner.

Friday, April 28, 2017

An Open Letter to Illinois School Districts and Higher Learning Institutions Regarding Preventative Strategies to Address Acts of Discrimination and Bigotry

The State of Illinois is committed to ensuring that every administrator, educator, staff member, parent, guardian, appointed or elected official, and most importantly, every student unite in condemning intolerable acts of hate, regardless of message or motivation, and stand together to denounce and prevent any acts of discrimination and bigotry, including hate crimes, in our local schools and institutions of higher learning.

Acts of discrimination, bullying, harassment, violence, vandalism, or any form of intimidation have no place in an academic environment, no matter their source, target, or reason. The state, through the Department of Human Rights, takes acts of discrimination seriously and will partner with the State Board of Education, the Illinois Community College Board, and the State Board of Higher Education to investigate any and all reports of them taking place within our schools. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that all students are aware of their rights and understand that hateful and unlawful actions will not be tolerated. This message must be emphasized at all levels of the education system.

We are urging all school districts, colleges, and universities to develop proactive strategies aimed at preventing forms of discrimination and bigotry before they occur. No matter the situation or climate, it is unacceptable to delay action until after intolerable behavior takes place in our places of learning. Preventative measures include, but are not limited to, the following:

 Commit to consistent review and dissemination of bullying, harassment, and other antidiscriminatory policies to all students, educators, staff, and other stakeholders.

 Initiate training for educators, staff, and administrators to recognize and act on the signs of students being a victim of discrimination, including anxiety, trauma, and sudden changes in academic performance.

 Ensure that there are clear lines of communication so that discriminatory acts can be reported and that individual or group support services are available.

 Be aware of behavior that may occur at extracurricular events, on social media, and at other outside locations by communicating with students that discrimination and harassment is unacceptable at any level.

 Develop, either internally or with the assistance of outside entities, programs aimed at promoting cultural understanding, preventing bullying or harassment, and fostering positive learning environments.

Each of us has a responsibility to our students to ensure safe and welcoming environments. This can only be accomplished by implementing sound and consistent policies that address discrimination, bigotry, and hateful acts in all academic settings. The Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education will continue to support local school districts and higher learning institutions in the development of policies and programs aimed at promoting equal opportunity. In accordance with the Governor’s directive, we will post anti-hate, anti-bias, and Holocaust education resources available at Pages/Anti-Bias-Anti-Hate. Safe schools, colleges, and universities where all students feel welcome and supported are indispensable to a vibrant and robust Illinois.

Sincerely,

Janice Glenn, Acting Director

Dr. Beth Purvis, Secretary of Education Illinois Department of Human Rights

Office of Governor Rauner

Tony Smith, Ph.D., Superintendent Illinois State Board of Education

Dr. Karen Hunter-Anderson, Executive Director Illinois Community College Board

Tom Cross, Chair Illinois Board of Higher Education