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School officers require parents’ permission to interview students

SYCAMORE – New rules from the state level dictate how school resource officers can interact with students, but it appears Sycamore Police was ahead of the curve.

Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters said the school resource officers already were acting in accordance with the law before an agreement between the city and schools codified it.

Sycamore High School resource officer Ryan Hooper said the law applies only if the student is subject to a criminal investigation. Per the law, he said, resource officers need to make a reasonable effort to contact the parents. He said the officer documents what time or times they attempted to make contact.

“When we talk [to the parents], we get their permission to have a school representative or they come to the school and sit in on the interview,” Hooper said.

He said since the start of the 2019-20 school year, there have been three criminal incidents that he has had to investigate.

“One was a fight,” Hooper said. “Two were theft of property at the school.”

If the student is a victim, however, Hooper said they usually tell him what happened. Parents don’t need to be notified of the interview ahead of time in that instance.

“Subsequent to talking to [the student], I’ll make parental notifications,” Hooper said.

Hooper said when it comes to witnesses of a crime that he’ll sometimes call the parents before he talks to them, but sometimes he’ll inform the parents of a student interview afterwards.

“It’s situation-dependent,” he said, depending how the investigation unfolds. He said he’ll ask after something happens if anyone knows what happened. Whenever state law changes, the city tries to ensure its agreements are current with the law.

The intergovernmental agreement approved by city council Tuesday ensures Sycamore Police Department and the school district were on the same page in terms of meeting the needs of the school and the students.

“The law really makes sure the district and the police department in their partnership makes sure they balance the safety needs of the students,” Winters said. “[The] safety of the students and the officer’s ability to operate in the school. It balances the needs of both.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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