Senate Committee Approves Mandate for “Media Literacy” in Schools


Senator Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, introduces a bill requiring schools to teach media literacy in a virtual committee hearing on Tuesday. (Credit:

Work continues on the bill limiting the use of isolation and physical restraint

Capitol News Illinois
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SPRINGFIELD – All Illinois high schools would be required to offer instruction on how to understand and assess news and social media as part of their introductory computer courses under a bill submitted to a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Senator Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, argued before the Senate Education Committee that the bill was necessary because of the big changes in the media landscape in recent years.

“In the digital age, the Internet has become the main public place,” she said. “Young people consume, create and share news through digital media. They debate and discuss social, political and civic issues in online spaces. They are also vulnerable to persecution and misinformation.

During the Lame Duck session in January, lawmakers passed an education reform bill backed by the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus that aimed to improve racial and ethnic equity in education . This bill, which Governor JB Pritzker signed the law in March, included a requirement that all schools provide “developmentally appropriate” computer education.

Villa said that Bill 234 would add to this requirement by including “media education” in the definition of computer literacy, as of the 2022-2023 school year.

According to the bill, this would include instructions on access to information on various platforms; analyze and evaluate media messages; create their own media messages; and social responsibility and good citizenship.

But Senator Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, asked how objective schools could be in teaching students how to evaluate news stories by separating factual news from “fake news.”

“What is false information and what is not?” She asked.

Villa responded that teachers are trained to teach students to use media and that the difference between fake news and real news is the same as the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

“So the teachers themselves would decide what fake news is, in their own opinion,” Bryant asked.

She hypothetically asked what would happen if a district decided that CNN presenter Anderson Cooper was a liar. “They could basically say that everything Anderson Cooper says is fake news,” said Bryant.

Villa, however, said the instruction would simply be designed to teach students how to verify information in a news story in order to assess for themselves what is correct and what is not.

The bill passed the committee by a 7-2 vote and is now heading to the Senate floor. It has already passed the House, 68-44, on March 20.

Isolation and restraint

The committee also proposed a bill that would require the Illinois State Board of Education to pass rules to dramatically reduce the use of downtime, isolated downtime, and physical strain in all public schools and non-public special education establishments.

It’s an issue lawmakers attempted to address during the Lame Duck session in January, when a bill passed unanimously by the Senate but stalled in the House.

The State Board of Education passed rules in 2020 that aimed to phase out the use of isolation and prone to restraint, or hidden face, by July of this year. Bill 219, which left the House, 113-0, on March 22, would actually give the State Council two more full years, until the 2023-2024 school year, to phase out these practices.

Senator Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, the bill’s main sponsor in the Senate, admitted that the extension had created some opposition to the bill. She said she plans to further amend the bill before it goes to a final vote, including shortening the implementation period to take effect in the 2022-2023 school year.

The use of seclusion and restraint in schools has long been criticized by advocates for students with disabilities.

Cheryl Jansen, director of public policy at the disability rights organization Equip for Equality, said the practice of physical restraint in particular has proven to be dangerous and even fatal in some situations. She said restraint is used disproportionately on students with disabilities, and a disproportionate share of those students were black or Latino.

Guy Stephens, who heads a group called Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, said he became active in efforts to ban the practices after his autistic son was traumatized by the use of seclusion and restraint at school.

“Recumbent restraint is dangerous. This can lead to serious trauma and significant injury to students, teachers and staff, ”he said. “While school staff sometimes signal that they need restraint to keep everyone safe, the data tells a different story. Each time restraint and seclusion are used, the likelihood of injury increases, so students and teachers are more likely to be injured when using restraint.

The bill was defeated by committee by 13 to 1, with Gillespie’s assurance that she would bring it back to committee after amending it in the Senate.

Capitol News Illinois is a non-profit, non-partisan news service covering state government and distributed to over 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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