Illinois school board members reject arming teachers, support grants for school resource officers

  • Huntley High School school resource officer Ryan Gregorio greets children last December at Leggee Elementary School in Huntley. A resolution to create funding to help school districts hire resource officers gained the support of the Illinois Association of School Boards on Saturday.

    Huntley High School school resource officer Ryan Gregorio greets children last December at Leggee Elementary School in Huntley. A resolution to create funding to help school districts hire resource officers gained the support of the Illinois Association of School Boards on Saturday. Courtesy of Huntley Police Department

 
 
Updated 11/23/2019 7:29 PM

Elected school officials from across Illinois have again shot down a proposal calling for legislation that would allow districts to decide whether to arm teachers and other employees.

But a related Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 resolution pushing for state grants to fund school resource officers received support during Saturday's Illinois Association of School Boards annual convention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This is the second time school board members, selected by colleagues as delegates, have rejected a measure seeking to arm school employees. They voted 249-198 against the concept this year, whereas a similar resolution received a 203-179 dissenting vote at last year's convention.

The proposal was intended to "give local school districts the authority to decide what is best for their communities in the areas of school safety and student protection," according to a news release from the school board association.

Supporters, who were primarily from rural school districts, hoped to ease concerns about emergency response times and a lack of financial resources to hire school resource officers, officials said. Opposing districts argued that arming employees would not create a safer environment for students.

District 21's proposal, approved by a majority of delegates, addresses the issue from a different angle. The resolution calls for the school board association to push for the creation and funding of a program aimed at helping districts employ school resource officers.

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District 21 board leader Phil Pritzker, immediate past president of the association, said earlier that the measure is a "good path to respond to the need without having to take the extraordinary step of arming staff members."

State lawmakers and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is not related to Phil Pritzker, would have to back the resolution for it to become law. The school board association lobbies the General Assembly to create laws for resolutions that are passed at the convention.

• Daily Herald staff writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

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