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updated: 5/9/2012 5:12 AM

School safety bill in limbo over privacy concerns

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  • Angel Facio

      Angel Facio

  • Elgin High School teacher Carolyn Gilbert laughs onstage at a fashion show put on by students.

      Elgin High School teacher Carolyn Gilbert laughs onstage at a fashion show put on by students.
    JOHN STARKS/Daily Herald file photo

  • State Rep. Carol Sente

      State Rep. Carol Sente

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer
klester@dailyherald.com

School safety legislation arising from the 2008 stabbing of an Elgin High School teacher by a student has stalled in an Illinois Senate criminal law committee, and its sponsor says she is considering narrowing its scope with the hope a version could then pass.

State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, said she's "not giving up."

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The bill was prompted by a Daily Herald investigation into the lack of communication between schools and police about troubled teens. The investigation followed the stabbing of high school teacher Carolyn Gilbert by then-16-year-old Angel Facio. Facio, unknown to the school, had already been accused in the sexual assault of an 8-year-old and the assault of a 13-year-old girl.

The legislation would explicitly allow police to give an administrator or teacher notice if authorities thought misbehavior outside of school could be an indicator of future school violence.

Currently, police and school officials across the suburbs aren't always sharing relevant information about troubled students, even when they have agreements to do so, the Daily Herald investigation showed.

Some lawmakers were at first hesitant about Sente's idea, saying students' privacy was a concern.

So Sente changed her plan, detailing that the information shared with schools can't be written down or made part of a student's permanent school record. The information wouldn't be part of public record, either. And information could only be shared if police thought it could develop into a public safety concern.

School and police officials in Elgin and Mundelein have backed the bill. Mundelein police Chief Ray Rose and Elgin Area School District U-46 Safety Coordinator John Heiderscheidt have traveled to Springfield to advocate for the law.

But Sente said the Senate Criminal Law Committee -- its members composed of a number of lawmakers who are lawyers and law enforcement officials by trade -- want to exclude some misdemeanors from what could be shared.

"Maybe we can talk about physical or electronic harassing, bullying, assault ... cover what I heard from the superintendents," Sente said.

The proposal was first approved by the Illinois House several weeks ago by a 91-9 vote before it headed to the Senate.

The original Senate sponsor was John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican and former Elmhurst police chief, who said Facio's case was a prime example of why the legislation is needed.

Millner transferred control of the bill to Chicago Democrat Tony Munoz after he was unable to attend last week's legislative session because of the death of his wife.

Sente said she is working on writing an amendment to the legislation.

The proposal missed last week's deadline to move the plan to the Senate floor, but that deadline has been extended to later this month.

Sente said she hopes a version of the legislation might advance as early as this week.

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