The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently issued non-regulatory guidance on the transfer of students to regional safe schools and alternative learning opportunity programs. The Guidance was issued in response to Public Act 97-0495, which recently amended the School Code provisions regarding alternative learning opportunity programs and regional safe schools.

Under Public Act 97-0495, school districts may immediately administratively transfer a student who has been expelled, or “suspended in excess of 20 days,” to a regional safe school program or an alternative learning opportunity program. As explained in the Guidance, school districts are not required to make such transfers; the new law simply permits school districts to do so. Regional safe school programs and alternative learning opportunity programs may not deny the transfer of students who are administratively transferred unless the transfer “is deemed to cause a threat to the safety of students or staff in the alternative program.”

The Guidance includes a “non-exhaustive list” of questions and answers regarding the requirements of administratively transferring students to regional safe school programs and alternative learning opportunity programs. For example, although the law expressly applies to students who have been suspended in excess of 20 days, the Guidance states that ISBE does not interpret the statute to mean 20 cumulative days. Thus, because the School Code only permits students to be suspended from school for up to 10 school days for a particular incident or violation, the Guidance states that the law appears to apply only to expelled students. The Guidance further explains that the determination of what constitutes an “immediate transfer” must be made on a case-by-case basis, with consideration being given to when in the school year the expulsion/suspension occurred and whether or not there were intervening school holidays, weekends, or other delays in processing such a transfer. The Guidance also responds to questions regarding the impact of these administrative transfers on issues such as transportation, state assessments, special education, and the sharing of student records.