By a 6 to 1 vote the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education approved an information sharing agreement with the Village of Brookfield on Sept. 19. The agreement is identical to the district’s agreement with the Village of Riverside that the board approved one year ago. The agreement is based on a template used throughout Illinois.
The agreements call on school officials and police departments to share information and require school officials to tell police departments about student criminal behavior.
David Barsotti cast the only vote against the agreement with Brookfield as he had done against the agreement with Riverside.
“There are a lot of things in here that I’m not comfortable with,” Barsotti said. “I just feel we can do a better job writing an agreement.”
Barsotti said that his biggest objection is that the agreements mandate school officials to report to police things as trivial as a playground fight between two kids.
“We need to be careful,” Barsotti told the Landmark. “We’re in the business of educating, we’re not in the business of policing. I mean we do need to keep the schools safe. I understand that, but it’s a poorly worded agreement.”
The agreement requires school officials to report, among nine other things, “Fights or other violent activity which might reasonably carry over into the community.” School officials are also required to report any written complaint of a battery against any school employee, a verified incident involving drugs on school property or within 1,000 feet of a school, and any time a student brings a gun or other weapon, including knives to school.
The police are also obligated to report such incidents to school officials.
Board president Jeff Miller said that the mandated reporting language made him somewhat uncomfortable, but he voted for the agreement after being assured by Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye that she had discretion in what information she shared and that school officials do not feel obligated to report every playground fight or a Boy Scout bringing a Swiss Army Knife to school for example.
“I feel like it gives us plenty of discretion,” said Ryan-Toye. “I feel like we did give this a lot of thought.”
Ryan-Toye said there were a few situations last year when school officials shared information with the Riverside Police Department.
Board member Joel Marhoul said that he understood Barsotti’s concerns but wanted to maintain relationships with local police departments.
These agreements seem to be more common with high schools than elementary school districts though their use seems to be growing in elementary school districts. Riverside Brookfield High School has had such agreements for more than a decade.
Lyons School District 103 has information sharing agreements this year with four villages but the Village of Lyons has refused to consider or approve the agreement. Neither Brookfield, LaGrange Park District 95 nor Komarek School District 94 have formal information sharing agreements with their local police departments although school officials say they routinely share information and have good relationships with their local police departments.
“I don’t know why we need an agreement to share information,” said District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski. “Our police department, if they have information about one of our children they bring it to our attention and when we need to contact the police we share information with them. I think it’s just a basic function. I’m not sure why someone signs an intergovernmental agreement to openly communicate.”