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For Parents, Lawmaker Wants Loophole Closed

Carter Staley
NPR Illinois

If a school resource officer wants to question a student about a criminal act, they first have to notify the student's parents. That's according to a new law implemented at the beginning of this school year.

But State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), says at least one district has already created a workaround. 

"The resource officer's dog, a K-9 unit, was walking through the parking lot and alerted on a student's car. The student got questioned with the resource officer present. They looked at the car, there was nothing there,” Kifowit says. “And the parent was never notified of this questioning until the student came home upset."

The district claimed it followed the law because the assistant principal was the one asking the questions, as the police officer stood nearby. Kifowit , who sponsored the original bill, calls that a “loophole.”

"Because it's still an intimidating figure,” she says. “Whether the resource officer is doing the questioning or not, the fact that you have two adults in a room — one a resource officer, one an administrator — and a child, without the parent knowing, I think is fundamentally wrong."

She has filed an amendment to clarify that parents still deserve the chance to be present, or to designate another adult to be with their child, even if the officer isn't the one articulating the questions. 

"Keep in mind this (original) legislation was from a student that wastraumatized that took their own life. And that should never happen again,” she says. "The child should never be alone in a room with a dean and a resource officer. It's just not right." 

She plans to call her proposal for a vote next week.


After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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