Dixon Public Schools postpones collection of gender, sexual orientation info

ISBE sends memo postponing efforts to comply with Support Equity and Racial Justice Act

Margo Empen, Dixon schools superintendent, reads a letter Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 to open a committee meeting concerning results of a survey about changing the start and end times of school.

DIXON — Dixon Public Schools will not be requesting information on students’ sexual orientation or gender identity during registration for the next school year after a memorandum was issued by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The ISBE told Illinois schools on March 4 that it was postponing the requirement from Public Act 102-0543 until the 2023-24 school year.

The ISBE also informed the General Assembly that it could not comply with the requirements of the act until it could come up with a method that does not infringe on student privacy.

Dixon Superintendent Margo Empen acknowledged receipt of the memo and informed parents the district would not be collecting the information for the upcoming school year. She had provided the board of education with a draft form of the registration form at its February meeting.

The ISBE said it recognized concerns about student privacy as raised by local leaders who cited provisions in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Illinois School Student Records Act.

Essentially, because parents and guardians have the right to access children’s educational records, student declarations about their gender identity or sexual orientation would become part of the student record and become available to their parents and guardians.

School personnel would also have access to the information, according to state and federal laws.

The state board of education recognized that even though providing this information is optional, the students who range in age from pre-K to 12th grade may not fully understand that information will become part of their student record.

The ISBE said it would form a group of educators, LGBTQ+ advocates, families and students to address the method of collecting the data so it conforms with the provisions of the act but also that student safety and privacy can be ensured.

The ISBE hopes to have a revised guidance formulated by October 2022. It might also propose legislation to amend the requirements of the act before school registration begins for 2023-24.

Public Act 102-0543 passed both houses of the General Assembly on May 27, 2021, and was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker on Aug. 8. It requires state boards and departments to report statistical data on racial, ethnic, age, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and primary or preferred language demographics in support of equity and racial justice.

The next meeting of the Dixon board of education is 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Rock Falls High School

The board of education will next meet 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

The agenda shows the board will be asked to approve a resolution authorizing and directing an abatement of a portion of taxes levied on certain property located in the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone.

The superintendent will also ask for the approval of a memo of understanding with Sauk Valley Community College’s Impact Program for the collection and sharing of student data to track performance and progress.

The approval of summer hires, a cafeteria worker, a night custodian and an assistant baseball coach are also on the agenda.

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Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for Saukvalley.com and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.