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updated: 3/8/2012 3:48 AM

Anti-school violence bill needs more work

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  • Back teaching at Elgin High School after her recovery, Carolyn Gilbert works with students in home economics class.

      Back teaching at Elgin High School after her recovery, Carolyn Gilbert works with students in home economics class.
    CHRISTOPHER HANKINS/2009 photo

  • Carolyn Gilbert

      Carolyn Gilbert

  • Angel Facio

      Angel Facio

  • Angel Facio

      Angel Facio

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- Legislation intended to try to prevent crimes like the 2008 stabbing of Elgin teacher Carolyn Gilbert will need more work before it moves any further, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The plan from state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, would allow police to tell a school official about an investigation involving a student's activities outside of school, if they thought the information could prevent school violence.

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The idea stems from a Daily Herald investigation into gaps in school safety laws. The investigation found that despite information sharing agreements on the books between schools and local police departments, communication wasn't always happening.

The 2008 Facio case is a prime example. Angel Facio of Elgin, then 16, had two police investigations pending against him -- for the sexual assault of a minor and the attempted abduction of another minor -- but Elgin Area School District U-46 officials were completely unaware of them. Months into those investigations, Facio stabbed Gilbert in an Elgin High School classroom. She lost her eye and endured a lengthy physical recovery.

"There were so many signs with that young student Angel Facio," Sente told a House committee this morning. "We could have gotten him help."

School officials like U-46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt, who drove to Springfield for the hearing, argue that the legislation drives at gaps in the law, and functions to get everyone on the same page.

Lawmakers, though, were concerned about how Sente's plan would affect students' privacy, arguing that spreading around information about students' problems outside of school could only amplify the issues while they're in class.

Also, skeptics of the proposal worried that information provided by police wouldn't stay with just one or two school officials.

"There's nothing going on in school that teachers don't know what it is," said state Rep. John Cavaletto, a Republican from downstate Salem.

A House committee this morning sent Sente's plan to the House floor, though with the stipulation that Sente has to bring changes back addressing their concerns.

Sente says she already has some changes in the works, including assurances that the police would give the information to school officials via word-of-mouth, instead of writing it down. And police wouldn't be able to tell school officials about a student's juvenile record or plans to prosecute.

Sente could present a revised plan, but acknowledged time is running short as lawmakers might shift their focus more to financial matters as their May 31 budget deadline approaches.

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