[authors: Maria E. Mazza and Brian P. Crowley]
Recent amendments to the School Code and the Juvenile Court Act contained in Public Act 97-1104, which will become effective on January 1, 2013, attempt to increase sharing of some student information between law enforcement and school officials pursuant to reciprocal reporting agreements. While the amendments enhance the sharing of information, the amendments also limit the way information may be disclosed, who can make use of the information, the circumstances under which information can be disclosed, and the use of the information.
Given the many changes in the law applicable to reciprocal reporting agreements outlined below, we would recommend that school districts review and revise their reciprocal reporting agreement to ensure compliance with the recent amendments, which will take effect January 1, 2013.
The new law has expanded the types of offenses committed by students that can be reported pursuant to a reciprocal reporting agreement. The reportable offenses include not only drug infractions, violent crimes, and the unlawful use of weapons, but also include violations of the Harassing and Obscene Communications Act, violations of the Hazing Act and certain provisions of the Criminal Code.
To the extent the information relates to a minor who is the subject of a current police investigation related to school safety, the information can only be transmitted orally (not in written records). The new law also clarifies that the information (whether oral or written) must be kept separate from and not be part of the official school record of the student and will not be a public record.
The amendments limit the school officials who may obtain the information to individuals who have a legitimate educational or safety interest to aid in the proper rehabilitation of the child and to protect the safety of students and employees in the school. If the law enforcement and school official deem it to be in the best interest of the minor, the amendments provide that the student may be referred to in-school or community based social services.
In addition, the amendments limit the circumstances under which police officials can disclose to school officials the activities of students, aside from the specific offenses committed by students that can be disclosed,. Police officials can only disclose information to school officials if they believe the activities involve an imminent threat of physical harm to students, school personnel, or others present in school or on school grounds.