New state law helps Lake Zurich police and schools team up
Police officer Mike Parberg is assigned to Lake Zurich High School. District 95 will be able to learn whether students are in trouble with the law, thanks to legislation passed in Springfield. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 12:58PM
LAKE ZURICH — Though its relationship with the police department has long been a stable and collaborative one, District 95 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.
Lake Zurich Deputy Police Chief Kevin Finlon said that the department has had police liaison services in place at Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 for over 20 years.
In fact, Police Chief Patrick Finlon was named the first school resource officer at the school in 1986.
“We do have an agreement with the school where we’ve been doing similar types of sharing information, because we want to address anything before it can happen,” Finlon said. “We’ve been fortunate to where we’ve never had a serious incident, but we do work on it and have plans developed with the school to address these kinds of issues.”
The Lake Zurich High School police consultant’s duties currently include: counseling students who have violated the law; conducting classroom lectures on law, good citizenship, safety, drugs and alcohol; handling police matters that occur at the school; and talking to parents of students who have had problems with the law.
Law enforcement is now required to parlay information about a student to the school if the infraction involves harassment through electronic communications, violations of the Hazing Act, violations of the Cannabis Control Act, violations of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, assault, and battery, to name a few.
Written law enforcement records detailing a minor’s involvement or suspected involvement in crimes related to school safety will not be subject to inspection by school officials, but rather communicated verbally.
“This new legislation broadens what can be shared, and I think it’s helpful for both parties,” District 95 Superintendent Mike Egan added.
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 the new legislation’s 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 legislation passed.
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.
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.