Change in state law on police questioning prompted by death of Naperville North student

School code now requires students not be alone when police question them

  • Corey Walgren

    Corey Walgren

 
 
Updated 8/25/2019 9:52 AM

A change in state law signed Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker requiring that a parent or guardian be notified when law enforcement questions a student on school grounds was prompted by the death of a Naperville North High School student.

House Bill 2627 says that before detaining and questioning a student under 18 who is suspected of committing a criminal act, a police officer, school resource officer or school security personnel must notify parents and make "reasonable efforts" to ensure they are present.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If that isn't possible, a school social worker, psychologist, nurse, guidance counselor or any other mental health professional should be present, according to the amended law, which is effective immediately.

If practical, efforts also should be made to have a law enforcement officer trained in "promoting safe interactions and communications with youth" present during questioning.

The proposal sponsored by 84th District state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit was in response to the death in January 2017 of 16-year old Corey Walgren. Hours after being questioned by school and police officials, he walked to the top of a five-story parking deck and fell to his death.

The staff had warned him he may have to register as a sex offender because they suspected he made a video of himself having sex with a classmate without her knowledge.

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Walgren was questioned before his mom was called and headed toward the school.

Kifowit earlier this year said she and members of her Youth Citizen Advisory council drafted the bill because Corey's death "really rattled" Naperville-area students.

"I think it's a clarification of the law that's really needed," she said Saturday. It acknowledges students shouldn't be alone during questioning.

"I think it's a step in the right direction and I think it's an overdue piece of legislation," she said.

The governor's signing is a "wonderful first step" to changes in Illinois law the family hopes will save lives, said Corey's father, Doug.

"It is very important that parents and guardians are informed and present any time a school resource officer is questioning a minor. A natural next step for us is to pursue a similar change at the national level," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Corey's mother, Maureen, said the family believes it is a minor student's right to have a parent present during police questioning but learned there is a gray area regarding school resource officers working in schools.

"Courts, schools, parents and police all have varying ideas of what the role is of the SRO and how they should be involved in questioning minors," she said.

Work will continue to change the school code to more clearly define the role of school resource officers and how schools use them during investigations and disciplinary incidents, she said.

"We don't want any other student to feel the fear and intimidation that Corey felt while he was alone with people of authority," she said.

Doug and Maureen Walgren sued two school officials, a school resource officer, Naperville Unit District 203 and the city of Naperville after Corey's death. A federal judge dismissed the action, but the ruling is being appealed.

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