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Schools, Churches and Other Targets Of Shootings Can Now Seek Restraining Orders

Rachel Otwell
NPR Illinois
Claire Farnsworth speaks from the podium at a rally calling for stricter gun laws after a shooting at a Floriday school. Also in response, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill allowing schools and churches to file orders of protection.

State lawmakers have changed rules about stalking. The new law was part of a response to the mass shooting at a Florida high school earlier this year.

Previously, only a person who is being harassed or stalked can file for an order of protection. Under the order, a judge can prohibit the harasser from getting within a certain distance of the victim.

In the hopes of preventing violence, a law that takes effect Jan. 1 will allow churches, schools or workplaces to ask for similar protections.

Ed Wojcicki – head of the Illinois Chiefs of Police – says after tragedies like mass shootings, people often realize there were signals that the shooter was a threat.

“So it's the institution that goes on record as saying, 'we got to watch out for this guy,'” he said.

The new law will also expand the definition of stalking to include unwanted messages sent through social media apps.

Angela Bertoni is the executive director of Sojourn Services in Springfield – a shelter for domestic violence survivors. She says previously those online messages could not be used to justify an order of protection.

“So this will help to hold perpetrators and aggressive people to a higher standard," she said. 

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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