Police and schools team up
Retiring Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose (right) spearheaded the working group which lobbied state legislators to get a reciprocal reporting law passed. | Pioneer Press file photo
MUNDELEIN – Schools now will be able to learn whether students are in trouble with the law thanks to legislation passed in Springfield over the summer.
Commonly called reciprocal reporting, the legislation creates a collaborative environment whereby courts and law enforcement agencies report to the principal of a school if a student has been arrested, is the subject of an investigation or has broken a local ordinance.
“The Columbine case is a prime example because police knew stuff but law enforcement wasn’t allowed to share information with the school,” said Jody Ware, superintendent of Mundelein High School District 120.
The new reporting is not mandated and schools can request information from police or the courts if they suspect a student with behavioral problems may have gotten in trouble. The request would only be answered if a student’s charges meet the requirements for a response.
Among other restrictions, such reports would not become part of a student’s official school record and would only be used to help them or protect their classmates and adults working at the school.
Retiring Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose spearheaded the working group which lobbied state legislators to get the act passed. Ware was also in the group, as her and School Resource Officer Brian Kisselburg had previously agreed that more information needed to be shared.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure student and staff safety,” Ware said. “We didn’t want to make a change after something tragic happened. This was preemptive.”
Rose said that schools always have been recognized as safe places, but with the rise in bullying this is no longer the case.
“It’s outrageous to think that some kid might get threatened, or something happens to him, and [police] can’t tell the schools,” Rose said. “Because the next day, all the kids involved might be sitting in the same class.”
Other than bullying, Rose and others in the group wanted to address gang and other violence and drug use by minors, said 59th District State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, who introduced the legislation.
Sente said this law will make schools safer and victims and perpetrators – and their parents – will benefit.
“If their child is the victim, they will be able to see the school address the issue sooner and potentially divert violent or harmful situations,” Sente said. “If their child is the one potentially about to do harm, they will have a chance to stay on a more successful path rather than heading down the wrong path.”
Detractors of the bill were concerned about kids’ privacy and the possibility that they would get labeled as a “problem child” at school.
Rose threw cold water on the matter by pointing out that only one person at the school will receive the information. He also said an offender partially gives up that right.
“Do you really think you have a right to privacy if you’re bullying or hurting other people?” Rose said. “Whether you’re a juvenile or adult, those actions become a threat to the community.”
Sente said she did not take the issue of juveniles’ privacy lightly and worked to amend her bill to address those concerns.
“The police can only discuss an issue if they believe there is an imminent threat of harm and if the issue involves a set list of offenses,” she said.
State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr., R-Mundelein, was a co-sponsor of the bill and agreed that the welfare of the community trumps privacy worries.
“I look at it this way. If my child is in school and having behavioral issues and he’s been before the police, an extra set of eyes to help me out would be something I would welcome,” Sullivan said.
He added that with the national events taking place, now is a great time to have this conversation. He also said the law might be tweaked in the future to determine what should be reported and what shouldn’t.