New Law Permits Juvenile Records Disclosure for Safety; Limits Means of Disclosure
On January 1, 2013, Public Act 97-1104 will become law. Among other changes, the new law purports to increase and ease the sharing of information between law enforcement and school officials, adds a new section to the Juvenile Court Act (and the School Code) exempting certain discussions from prohibitions against law enforcement communication regarding juvenile offenses.
The revision to the Juvenile Court Act allows inspection and copying of law enforcement records maintained by law enforcement agencies relating to minors arrested or taken into custody before his or her 17th birthday to "school official or officials whom the school has determined to 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." 705 ILCS 405/1-8.
The new law requires that "Any information provided to appropriate school officials whom the school has determined to have a legitimate educational or safety interest by local law enforcement officials about a minor who is the subject of a current police investigation that is directly related to school safety shall consist of oral information only, and not written law enforcement records, and shall be used solely by the appropriate school official or officials to protect the safety of students and employees in the school and aid in the proper rehabilitation of the child." Id.
The information which may be shared (but is not required for disclosure) is for purposes of protection of students and employees, not discipline of the students. Moreover, the law does not permit disclosure of written evidence for purposes of discipline or evidence.
The law also provides that "[t]he information derived orally from the local law enforcement officials shall be kept separate from and shall not become a part of the official school record of the child and shall not be a public record." Id.
While the Act does clear the path for improved communication between law enforcement and school officials when safety of students or employees is at issue, it is important to note that the law limits the way information may be disclosed and certainly draws attention to communications previously subject to limited regulation.
Districts are well-advised to seek information when necessary for the protection of their students, but such districts should not assume that the information they attain will be useful in discipline, and restrictions for safety will need to be carefully drawn based on the facts in question.