A school safety bill inspired by an Elgin High School teacher who was viciously attacked by one of her students in 2008 has been signed into law.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed the legislation that allows schools and police departments to share more information if a student is the subject of a police investigation or has been taken into custody.
State Sen. John Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, and State Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, sponsored the bill to prevent attacks like that on Carolyn Gilbert, a family and consumer science teacher who was stabbed by a student while she was alone with him in a classroom. Gilbert lost an eye in the attack but is back teaching at Elgin High.
"This is an important bill," Quinn said. "Not only for this school and this school district but for all schools in Illinois, and we must maintain safety in the school room and classroom so that teachers can do their job of instilling knowledge and helping their students achieve their goals."
The law is the result of a Daily Herald investigation that found while many school districts have "reciprocal reporting" agreements with police departments, few were operating as intended. And the agreements, while suggested in the state's school code, were not required.
Gilbert's attacker, then 16-year-old Angel Facio, was under investigation for a previous violent attack, a sexual assault on an 8-year-old girl. Officials in Elgin Area School District U-46 were unaware of the police investigation before the Jan. 18, 2008, attack on Gilbert.
"This is your law, Carolyn," Quinn said. "We're real proud of you."
The new law allows for information to be shared orally. Details, however, may not be included in the student's official school record or public record.
Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose, who was part of a committee that drafted the legislation, said the expectations that school is a safe place have worn away. By sharing information, school districts, state legislators and police "recognize that when someone leaves the school or someone leaves the street and enters the school, behaviors are not left at the door," Rose said.
Gilbert, who stood at Quinn's side as he spoke, did not publicly address the news media, school officials, staff or students who had gathered in the school's library for the signing.
Dozens of Elgin High School students crowded behind the governor to watch as he signed House Bill 5602. Courtney Browning, a 17-year-old senior from Elgin, said she was unaware of the bill before Monday, but said the new law gives her a greater sense of safety at school.
"It is important that all students and the staff are safe at school," said Courtney, whose senior civics class stood behind Quinn. "Not only at this school but any school. It is better for everybody."
In addition to the school safety law, Quinn also signed a bill that allows community colleges to purchase American-made products even if they are slightly more expensive than products made overseas. Trustees from Elgin Community College had brought the issue to Sen. Michael Noland, a Democrat from Elgin. In the past, community colleges were often forced to buy foreign-made products because state law required community colleges to accept the lowest bid regardless of other considerations.
Noland said American government should support American jobs.
"Community colleges are paid for by the people, so they should at least have the opportunity to give back to the local community by buying locally made products," Noland said.