Illinois lawmakers grapple with school safety after Parkland

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Legislation before the Illinois House would replace school-based police officers with social workers.

Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch is sponsoring the plan to address what proponents say is needless arrests of blacks and other minority students.

A group called Voices of Youth in Chicago Education says police officers aren’t equipped to handle behavioral health issues and commonly arrest students for non-violent behavior.

The plan would create a grant program to shift funding from school police to behavioral health specialists who who know how to de-escalate disputes and deal in conflict resolution.

But it’s a tough sell after deaths of 17 at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February. Kip Heinle is a former president of the association representing school police officers. He says that police officers are “the best line of defense to keep students safe in school.”