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Illinois teachers pushing for training to prevent racial harassments

The 'Racism-Free Schools Act' aims to protect students and teachers of color from acts of racism that often go unreported.

MOLINE, Ill. — For years, schools across Illinois have been looking into ways to protect students and teachers of color. Madeline Wood, a music teacher at United Junior High and United High School in Monmouth, said being part of TeachPlus has given her and others motivation to find ways to empower themselves for their students. 

“We need to show our students of color that we value them and we want to protect them," Wood said. “In my opinion, racism has become so casual and that needs to change.”

Wood, alongside others, has proposed the Racism-Free Schools Act to the Illinois legislature  The bill could offer protection for students and staff. According to Wood, the bill would make schools adopt policies to fight racial harassment, train their employees on how to identify racism and take the next steps, such as reporting it. 

"These policies would also need to be communicated to students and families," Wood says. "Our goal is to create a safe environment for all students and staff."

Currently, Illinois has policies that prevent discrimination against anyone regardless of race, sex and more. 

However, teachers like Katherine Whitington want to see schools take an extra step to prevent any harassment in any learning environment. 

"If you're a student of color, you have protection," Whitington says. "There needs to be an explicit policy in which school districts have to create and communicate actual policies that relate to racial harassment within schools." 

The bill is scheduled for debate in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. If the committee votes in favor, it could move to a vote in the Senate. 

Over 36 legislators are in support of the bill, including Sen. Mike Halpin. 

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