By Terry Dean
Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and the Oak Park Police Department have formalized their process of reporting crimes committed by students via a new intergovernmental agreement between to two entities.
Incidents involving students possessing a weapon or drugs or assaulting a teacher are already reported to police without parental consent and prior to the student receiving discipline by the district.
D97 spokesman Chris Jasculca says the agreement formalizes a process that's already been in place. The agreement, which was approved unanimously by the D97 school board on Feb. 25, gives the district more flexibility to report additional information to police without parental consent, Jasculca said.
Information reported to police would not be made public nor become part of the student's official school record, according to the agreement. Jasculca said the agreement has been thoroughly vetted by the district and Oak Park Police Department.
Supt. Albert Roberts said the district is simply looking to formalize its current practice of police reporting and policy reviewing.
"We're trying to take what's been an informal practice and formulate it into a formalized system that meets not only the spirit of the law, which we've done, but the intent of the law," Roberts said.
The agreement grew out of D97's work with the FACE-IT program run by the Oak Park Township Youth Services, Jasculca said.
That program works with at-risk kids by providing prevention and mentoring resources. D97 has been involved with the program since its launch in 2009. Improving the district's reporting system with police not only addresses safety but helps steer students toward rehabilitative services, Jasculca said.
As part of the agreement, D97 will also look to create a parent-teacher advisory committee to annually review the agreement and D97's discipline procedures. The committee is required by law, Jasculca said, though some school districts in the state, including D97, have not had such a committee in place.
The committee, he added, would need to meet twice a year.
He noted that groups including the PTO Council have typically reviewed such disciplinary procedures.
Jasculca said it would easier for the district to have a formal committee look at such things versus "piecemealing" it out to various groups.
"And it doesn't have to be huge. It doesn't have to be 55 parents and a ton of staff. We just need a small group of anywhere from five to 10 people on this committee to review the items," Jasculca said, adding that the committee would be an administrative rather than a board committee.
"We've done this very piecemeal through PTO Council, PTOs and the [Education] Council.
It just makes sense to form this committee to do the things that need to get done under the law," Jasculca said.
School board members reviewed and discussed the agreement draft on Feb. 11 before approving it last week. Jim Gates, who co-chaired the board's policy committee, said various parent and teacher groups have vetted such policies and procedures in the past.