SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – To protect children’s mental health in highly stressful situations, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, and members of her Youth Citizen Advisory Council are calling for a measure requiring a parent or mental health professional to be present for interviews in which an authority figure uses interrogation tactics against a student.
“Schoolchildren who don’t fully understand the criminal justice system or the consequences of certain actions deserve to have someone looking out for their best interest during police or authority questioning,” said Kifowit. “This bill doesn’t take away a school’s or law enforcement’s ability to thoroughly investigate students’ behavior. Rather, it puts in place a safeguard to mitigate students’ emotional distress and prevent self-harm as law enforcement does their job.”
Kifowit recently introduced House Bill 2627, which was created in conjunction with the members of her Youth Advisory Council, a group of local students that helps Kifowit address issues of concern to young people in the community. The bill prohibits school administrators and law enforcement officials from questioning or detaining a student believed to have committed a crime until the student’s parent, a school social worker or a licensed mental health professional is present. The legislation is in response to an incident in which a local high school student took his life less than two hours after a school dean and resource officer questioned the teenager and used intimidating tactics including the threat of criminal prosecution.
“The mental health of our students is an issue that I take very seriously,” said Kifowit. “I appreciate the support from members of my Youth Advisory Council on this measure and others that we are working on to increase students’ access to mental health services and make sure they receive proper support.”