Here’s What You Need To Know

Emily Parkin

CHICAGO — A slate of new city, county and state laws in 2022 will affect education, criminal justice, deportation and eating out for Chicagoans.

Schools no longer can crack down on nonwhite hairstyles, and they must do more to protect children from sexual misconduct. Chicago restaurants must stop offering pop as a default drink for kids meals and limit how much single-use plastics they give to customers ordering takeout.

Here’s a closer look at 2022’s new laws:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Jett Hawkins poses for a portrait, donning his hair in braids, in his family’s Douglas home on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Ban On Hair Discrimination

When 4-year-old Jett Hawkins came to his West Side school in March sporting braids, administrators told his mother the hairstyle violated a policy that banned several Black hairstyles, including locs, braids and cornrows on boys.

Jett’s mother, Ida Nelson, pushed back, saying the experience of “policing Black children’s hair” can impact a child’s mental health, self-esteem and confidence. Such policies also encourage Black people “to assimilate to fit in with white culture and discard their history and their Black culture,” Nelson said.

The story caught the attention of state Sen. Mike Simmons — who keeps his hair in long, freeform locs — who drafted the bill with the Illinois State Board of Education.

The law requires the state board to complete a review of school handbooks and policies to ensure they don’t single out and ban Black hairstyles like cornrows, locs and braids. The law also directs the state board to produce educational resources for schools about hair discrimination, and the histories behind protective hairstyles Black people often use.

Jett and his mom were on hand when Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins’ Law in August. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

Credit: Pascal Sabino / Block Club
Jett Hawkins and his mother Ida Nelson stand with Governor JB Pritzker at the signing for the ban on hair discrimination.

Mental Health Days For Public School Students

With education upended for kids during the pandemic, public school students will be allowed mental health days for the first time.

Starting in January, students 7-17 years old can take up to five mental health or behavioral days off per school year, with no doctor’s note required.

The law, sponsored by state Sen. Robert Martwick, was signed by the governor in October.

“Mental health challenges have risen dramatically,” Martwick said in a statement. “We need to ensure that our teachers and administrators have every tool they need to identify students who are suffering and ensure those students get the resources they need.”

Ban On Plasticware At Restaurants

Starting in mid-January, Chicago restaurants can only give customers plasticware, napkins and similar items by request.

The city ordinance, passed in September, bans restaurants from providing single-use utensils, stirrers, toothpicks, napkins, cup sleeves and disposable plates in most cases.

Drive-thrus, airports and charity food giveaways would be exempt. The ordinance does not include straws, cup lids or takeout containers, and it does not apply to “self-service stations,” where customers can grab their own napkins or condiments. 

The ordinance is part of an effort to reduce waste of single-use plastics. Alderpeople who supported the final version of the law acknowledged it doesn’t go far enough, but said “small, incremental change” is needed now without overburdening restaurant owners.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The Cook County Department of Corrections in the Little Village neighborhood on April 11, 2020.

Phase Out Of Cash Bail

Portions of the Pretrial Fairness Act go into effect Jan. 1. While cash bail itself won’t go away until 2023, other parts of the law will expand the rights of people incarcerated in their homes on electronic monitoring.

Those assigned house arrest as a condition of release will be allowed to leave their homes to perform essential tasks and receive regular reviews, allowing the court to evaluate whether they need to remain on electronic monitoring.

Advocates long have argued that the cash bail system penalizes low-income defendants who have been approved to be released on bond but stay in jail because they cannot afford to pay. When the full law goes into effect in 2023, it will make it easier for defendants to help with their defense and support their families and communities, while still giving judges latitude to jail someone they think poses a threat to the public.

“Being poor is not a crime, end of story,” said state Sen. Robert Peters, who sponsored the legislation. “Folks who have the means to cover their bail don’t spend a minute in jail, while others could be locked up for weeks or even months before their trial begins. This is not a just or equitable system.”

As cash bail is removed, some neighborhood groups have mobilized to provide social services to people released from jail and awaiting trial.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Students walk onto the football field at CPS Marine Leadership Academy, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave., in Logan Square on Nov. 19, 2021.

Faith’s Law To Prevent Grooming, Sex Abuse In Schools

Faith’s Law was in the works for two years before it was signed as a massive sexual abuse scandal unfolded in Chicago Public Schools.

Named for sexual abuse survivor Faith Colson, two parts of the law go into effect in July. First, it bans all forms of grooming in which adults lure children into sexual relationships. Previous state law defined grooming as luring a child into unlawful sex using the internet. Now, that definition has been expanded to include in-person interaction and written communication.

The law also requires the state offer educator training “on the physical and mental health needs of students, student safety, educator ethics, professional conduct, and other topics that address the well-being of students and improve the academic and social-emotional outcomes of students” this year.

The law was finalized in December amid the scandal at Marine Leadership Academy, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave. Investigators uncovered multiple instances of grooming, but CPS leaders said state law didn’t allow criminal charges because no sexual contact occurred with students until they were legal adults.

Also under Faith’s Law, the Illinois State Board of Education is required to create a statewide resource guide for parents, “a centralized source of assistance and provide resources available to the parent or guardian of a student who is or may be the victim of sexual abuse,” according to the governor’s office. That must be complete by mid-2023.

Credit: Darryl Holliday/DNAinfo
An immigration rally in Chicago.

Legal Representation For Non-Citizens In Deportation Cases

Starting in January, the Cook County Public Defenders Office can represent non-citizens in deportation cases under the Defenders For All Act.

The Defenders for All coalition — a group of more than 40 organizations and community groups — pushed for the law and an immigration unit within the Public Defender’s Office dedicated to these cases.

Cook County is the third jurisdiction, after San Francisco and Alameda County, California, to offer representation to immigrants facing deportation. The law moves Cook County closer to creating a more “welcoming place for everyone to call home,” county board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

“We know individuals who go to immigration court without a lawyer are far more likely to get a worse outcome. Not because of some fact in their case, but solely because they don’t have a lawyer. … We want to change that,” Public Defender Sharone Mitchell said.

A car dons decorations for Juneteenth during the Juneteenth Celebration ReBuild Black Wall Street in Washington Park on Friday, June 19, 2020. | Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Juneteenth

The celebration of the effective end of slavery is now a paid state holiday.

Juneteenth is celebrated June 19 to commemorate the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to free all enslaved people two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery was abolished through the 13th Amendment in December 1865.

The holiday will be a paid day off for state workers and public education professionals, but only when June 19 falls on a weekday. That means the first paid holiday for Juneteenth will be in 2023.

President Joe Biden also made Juneteenth a federal holiday. After initially ruling it out as too expensive, Mayor Lori Lightfoot reversed course and declared this year Juneteenth would be an official city holiday, as well.

Restaurants Must Offer Water, Juice Or Milk Instead Of Pop For Kids’ Meals

The Serve Kids Better Act, which goes into effect Jan 1., is part of a broader effort to cut down on sugary drinks.

The law requires restaurants to offer water, juice or milk with no added sweeteners as the default option for a kids meal. Drinks like pop can still be ordered on request, but the primary options that are advertised must be some variety of water, milk or fruit or vegetable juice. The governor signed the law in August.

Hate Crimes

Targeting someone for their citizenship or immigration status is now a hate crime in Illinois.

Under the law signed in August, the state’s criminal code was expanded to specifically include anti-immigration bias as a hate crime, along with crimes based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation and other factors.

The law was part of a slate of legislation designed to strengthen protections for immigrants and refugees.

Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action
A student views a Google Classroom screen on their laptop.

New School Curriculum

Two laws will expand what kids learn in school about various ethnic and religious groups.

All public elementary and high schools must teach Asian-American history starting in 2022. That instruction must include lessons on Asian Americans in Illinois and in the Midwest and how Asian Americans advanced civil rights from the 19th century to today.

Illinois became the first state to require Asian-American history instruction when Pritzker signed the law in July.

Starting Jan. 1, United States history classes must also include instruction about how faith communities have shaped American society. That can include lessons about Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists or any other collective community of faith.

That law, signed in August, included a provision to add Jan. 17, the birthday of boxer Muhammad Ali, to the list of commemorative school holidays.

Credit: Pat Nabong/Block Club Chicago
Marcus Hammonds and his daughter Memphis serve lemonade to a customer. Local vendors from the neighborhood were at the Back Alley Jazz Festival.

Lemonade Stands

Kids’ lemonade stands can no longer be shut down under Hayli’s Law.

The law was inspired by Hayli Martenez, whose lemonade stand outside her Kankakee mom was shut down by county health authorities in 2019. The outrage spurred legislators to create policy that allows kids younger than 16 to sell lemonade without a permit.

The governor signed the law in July, and Kanakakee leaders bought Hayli a portable lemonade stand, CBS Chicago reported.

LGBTQ Inclusivity On Marriage Certificates

When Pritzker decriminalized HIV transmission in July, he also finalized laws that make it easier for LGBTQ spouses to alter their marriage certificates and expanded infertility treatment coverage for Illinoisans.

One law allows for couples to request marriage certificates with gender-neutral language or no gendered language at all. That goes into effect Jan. 1. Another will make it easier for couples to correct their name and gender on their marriage certificates was enacted in July.

Insurance coverage for infertility treatments also includes same-sex couples, women older than 35 and single people. That goes into effect Jan. 1.

Pritzker said the laws will help solidify Illinois as a “beacon of equality and hope for the national LGBTQ community.”

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