Pritzker signs bill intended to improve behavioral health training, resources in schools

Gov. JB Pritzker signed off Thursday on a proposal that advocates say will bring a more trauma-responsive approach to Illinois schools.

The law requires the Illinois State Board of Education to develop an index by May 2025 to measure community childhood trauma exposure for children between 3 and 19.

It also mandates training workshops for teachers that are focused on responding to trauma in the school environment. A committee created by the law will make recommendations on incorporating trauma-related requirements in professional educator licensure and license renewal for K-12 teachers.

The language is based on recommendations by the Whole Child Task Force, a group established in 2021 by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ education pillar.

“School officials should be equipped to identify the warning signs of mental illness, trauma and suicidal behavior in youth,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood. “Training is crucial to encouraging appropriate trauma-responsive intervention and techniques in schools.”

Pritzker said in a statement they “will continue to review our progress and devise new ways to best support our state’s children.”

The task force, which collects data on adverse childhood experiences and trauma and the total number of school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists in Illinois schools, will reconvene in the coming years to review progress on the state’s implementation of the board’s recommendations and submit a new report with further suggestions.