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Illinois House Plans to Replace Armed Officers in Schools with Mental Health Professionals

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After the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, student safety is once again a topic of national debate. Many schools rely on armed school resource officers to protect students, but that didn’t work out well in the Parkland incident. Now some schools are giving up on their resource officers. They are taking them out of the schools.

“The Illinois House of Representatives on Friday approved a plan to replace armed police officers in schools with unarmed mental health professionals,” The Hill writes.

“The Democratic-led Illinois House voted 64-25 in favor of setting up a grant program that would reward schools for hiring social workers.”

The language of the bill reportedly withheld funding from schools that employed armed officers. That caveat was not in the final version, though, adding some optimism for those who still want armed professionals protecting children.

More than just a cop

“The plan will now head to the state Senate for a vote,” The Hill adds. “The Illinois measure comes amid renewed calls for increased security in public schools after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February. GOP lawmakers have proposed adding more armed officers to schools, despite a review finding that the armed officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not enter the school during the February shooting.”

This move has many scratching their heads. While the collective efforts of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office did little to protect against, or stop, the Parkland shooting, few believe that removing police and deputies will make students safer.

The President, and others, are actually calling for more armed resource officers. Others want to arm qualified and willing teachers.

The move by Illinois does position this argument as a false dichotomy. Armed resource officers can work hand-in-hand with mental health professionals. And the role of the school resource officer is hardly just the prevention of school shootings. While that may be the most high profile role, the day-to-day is much more than that, as the video below illustrates.