Police officers in Illinois who are assigned to protect school children and patrol school hallways will soon be required to undergo new youth-specific training.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill over the weekend that requires school resource officers, also known as SROs, to be better prepared to deal with the student population. The training will focus on de-escalation, crisis intervention and cyberbullying.
Previously, youth-specific training was not mandatory for law enforcement agencies’ student resource officers.
Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley is an attorney for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law who said she does not agree that officers should be permanently assigned to schools. But she said those officers at schools must be trained to understand how the adolescent brain differs from adults.
“We want to ensure that officers know how to appropriately respond to children, for example, with disabilities, to not handcuff them when they're having an outburst, but to instead to realize they need to get them to the appropriate services,” Mbekeani-Wiley said.
Some police chiefs and sheriffs previously argued their resource officers were already prepared and said the new training is not necessary. However, the new law allows for law enforcement agencies to apply for training waivers.
NBC 5 Investigates surveyed Chicago-area school districts and found a majority of the respondents said they do not have police in schools.
Meantime, any law enforcement agency that provides a school resource officer can apply for state and federal grants to help pay for the training.