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Illinois lawmaker puts forth bill that aims to replace school resource officers with therapists

Illinois State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch. Image credit: Twitter.

The state of Illinois has done it again- this time in the city of Springfield, where lawmakers want to give extra money to schools that replace armed security officers with unarmed social workers and behavioral therapists.

Hillside Democratic Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch -backed by 16 other Democrats in the House- proposed the idea of allowing schools to apply to an optional grant if they promise to reallocate funding intended for  school-based law enforcement and focus on mental health services, including social workers or other practices “designed to promote school safety and healthy environments,” according to the Associate Press.

Many, including Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law member Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley, agree with Welch, claiming police aren’t equipped to deal with mental health issues like medically-trained professionals are.

“This increased presence of law enforcement in schools does not necessarily enhance school safety,” said Mbekeani-Wiley. “Instead it dramatically increases the likelihood that students will be unnecessarily swept into the criminal justice system often for mere adolescent or disruptive behavior.”

Meanwhile, former president of the Illinois School Resource Officers Association Deputy Kip Heinle says that School Resource Officers are there to respond to a threat in real time, not act as counselors.

To Heinle, he believes that “the best line of defense to keep students safe in school” is an SRO on hand.

According to The Associated Press, Heinle added that many officers are mentors and informal counselors to many of their students, with the endgame goal of “shaping them to be successful adults someday.”

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