As we notified you earlier this school year in a FR Alert, the recently enacted Erin’s Law requires all school districts in Illinois enrolling students in grades seven through twelve to have a policy on teen dating violence. The policy must include, among other components, a process by which students can report teen dating violence and a process by which the administration of a school is to respond to and investigate such reports.

The new policy is in addition to already existing policies governing reporting and investigation of bullying, intimidation, harassment, and other types of violence experienced by students. For example, school districts that subscribe to the Illinois Association of School Board’s Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS) have Policy 2:260, Uniform Grievance Procedure, for complaints against school district board members, employees, or agents, and Policies 7:20, Harassment of Students Prohibited; 7:180, Bullying, Intimidation, and Harassment Prohibited; and 7:185, Teen Dating Violence Prohibited for complaints of bullying, intimidation, harassment, and violence by students against students. In working with clients to develop teen dating policies that comply with Erin’s law, we have learned that there often can be significant overlap and confusion between these various policies.

To avoid confusion, we suggest that school districts streamline their bullying, intimidation, harassment, and violence (including teen dating violence) policies to have only two policies. One policy should address complaints by members of the school district community regarding misconduct by school district board members, employees, or agents, and one should address complaints regarding misconduct by students. We believe that this streamlining will alleviate some of the overlap and confusion between the various policies, including mitigating the risks that school district employees will apply the wrong policy or process to a complaint and that potential victims or others who become aware of instances of bullying, intimidation, harassment, and violence from being confused as to how to report a complaint and how that complaint will be handled.