Three Naperville students get Illinois legislation passed

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There are now several new pieces of Illinois legislation that will become laws thanks to the work of three Naperville Central High School students and the social studies teacher who mentored them, Seth Brady.

“You’ve got high school students now really contributing to public policy and seasoned policymakers are endorsing what students are doing and so it’s a really great thing to see,” said Brady.

Legislation to educate students on fentanyl and treat overdoses

The first student, Lelia Peradotti, looked into the dangers of fentanyl as part of her capstone project that would qualify her to be certified as an Illinois Global Scholar.  That project led to two related bills being drafted and then ultimately passed as Illinois law.  One requires all high schools statewide to teach students about the lethal drug.  The second mandates that all Illinois public high school nurses have Narcan on hand. The medication is used to treat overdoses caused by fentanyl and other opioids.

“That law will undoubtedly save lives,” said Brady. “There’s already been situations where students have overdosed and have been saved by fentanyl in a high school context.”

“Unfortunately somebody really close to my family did pass away in 2020 from fentanyl,” said Peradotti. “And I didn’t really know what it was even though I was in health class at the exact same time.

Peradotti says her health classes weren’t teaching about fentanyl – and didn’t have to – but she wanted to change that. During research of her own, she discovered some shocking realities about the drug.

“Dealers are putting fentanyl in a lot of over-the-counter drugs such as Xanax or Adderall, not even realizing fentanyl is in it,” said Peradotti. “It really just hit me in the heart cause maybe some of my friends or someone close to my age could be passing away from this.”

Required education on allergies and how to use EpiPen

Also hoping to save lives, Darby Elo got legislation passed that mandates all Illinois high schools teach students about allergies, reactions to them, and how to use an EpiPen in emergencies.

“During my junior year, my friend made sure I knew how to use an EpiPen because her allergies were so severe,” said Elo.  “So I realized in that moment, if she didn’t teach me how to use it, I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.  So that kind of led me into this idea for that law.”

“Like Liliah’s bill, those are just critical things to have in the context of a school and a students’ education to keep themselves safe and keep others safe,” said Brady.

Elo had researched allergies before and revisited that topic for a project in her Peace and Conflict Studies class, led by Brady, and that’s when the idea came to propose legislation.

“As a senior in high school, while I wanted to pursue it, I was hesitant about it and definitely needed that extra shove,” said Elo.  “It was really great that Mr. Brady was there because he really hyped me up about it and it was really nice to have a teacher that believed in you so much.”

Expanded Illinois Report Card

Lastly, Javen Oswald was also working on a capstone project looking at what he says was a disproportionate number of minorities in advanced classes.  To address the issue, he came up with an idea called the “Extended Illinois Report Card.”  The current Illinois Report Card shows each school’s demographics.  But thanks to Oswald’s project, the report card will require all Illinois high schools to further break down the demographics of each course level, from standard to honors to special education.

“The main hope was just transparency and showing the community that this is a problem and then the community holds schools accountable and then the schools take action,” said Oswald.

“So really looks at making sure that school resources are being evenly applied to all students,” said Brady.  “It could be that a school district is doing just fine and allocating these resources equitably, which is a great thing for the community to know but it’s also important to know are there situations where a community’s resources aren’t being used equitably to make those adjustments and to strengthen community?”

When these laws take effect

Both Peradotti and Elo worked with State Representative Janet Yang Rohr to get their fentanyl and allergies-related laws passed and will take effect at the start of the 2024-2025 school year.  In the meantime, both are now freshman in college studying political science, Peradotti at Mount Saint Mary University in Los Angeles and Elo at Indiana University.  Oswald is still at Naperville Central, now a senior, and his legislation on the extended school report card was sponsored by State Senator Kimberly Lightford and takes effect in 2027.

“When you set students free, they do amazing things,” said Brady.  “These are some amazing students who tackled some amazingly complex problems and I’m just incredibly proud.”

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