New law: Schools must report dangerous students to police

News-DemocratFebruary 7, 2014 

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, in a 2012 file photo.

TIM VIZER/BND

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly sent a letter to school superintendents throughout the county Friday reminding them about a new law requiring them to report to police any student who is deemed to be dangerous.

Under Illinois' new concealed-carry law, school administrators are now required to report to Illinois State Police any student determined to pose a clear and present danger to himself, herself or others. The report has to be made within 24 hours of making the determination that the student is dangerous.

"As an educator, you are painfully aware of the unacceptable number of school shootings that continue to plague this country," Kelly stated in the letter. "In many cases, there were warning signs and small steps that could have been taken to prevent these tragedies. And in many cases individuals that perpetrated these crimes were a danger to themselves and others and they illegally accessed firearms."

Under Illinois law, a person is a clear and present danger when they "demonstrate threatening physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal or assaultive threats, actions or other behavior.

Cahokia School District 187 Superintendent Art Ryan said Friday his district has a policy in place to report a student who threatens harm, but he welcomes the new requirement.

"Every time you hear about one of these school shootings, there is someone who says that they said this or they did that," Ryan said. "I understand the logic behind it. Contacting State Police won't be that much different than what we do now."

Students who make such threats of harm, Ryan said, are "few and far between."

East St. Louis School District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver said student safety is a concern for every school district.

"We welcome these new requirements as one more resource that we can use to protect the security of our staff and students," he said. "Just as mandated reporting of child abuse has increased the protection of children, I expect these clear and present danger reporting requirements will help protect students from tragedies involving guns."

Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said reporting requirements get law enforcement involved, and may thwart classroom violence.

"I just think that Kelly is being very proactive in informing school communities of the steps that need to be taken," Bond said.

Once a student is reported as a clear and present danger, Bond said police will fully investigate the student and the incident.

Jeff Dosier, superintendent at Belleville School District 201, said: "We support anything to do with dealing quickly with violence when there is danger. I don't think it's anything that creates any problems for us."

Belleville School District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said the change won't have a significant impact on his district.

"I think if we have a serious threat we are doing that anyway whether its straight to the Illinois State Police or the local law enforcement agency," he said. "If we thought any youngster was acting or talking in a way that we were concerned for their safety or those around them, we would be communicating that to all the agencies that could be of assistance."

Kelly included with his letter a copy of the Illinois State Police Clear and Present Danger reporting instructions which law enforcement officials and school administrators must follow.

In his letter, Kelly stated, "Undoubtedly, this mandate adds to your many duties and it certainly will not prevent every tragedy. However, even if one life is saved, even if one school is a bit better protected, this process will be well worth it."

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com and Beth Hunsdorfer at 239-2570 or bhundsdorfer@bnd.com.

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