PEORIA- A new bill would require parents or guardians of minors who are first-time gang related offenders to attend anti-gang violence parenting classes.
Peoria Police Chief, Steve Settingsgaard, works with gang members and their families for the Don't Shoot program. He said a lot of parents aren't' aware their child is in a gang.
"We have had contact with a fair number of mothers who when we talk to them about their child and their involvement with a gang, that we have some who just don't seem to know," Settingsgaard said.
But that might change as state lawmakers discuss the new bill.
The bill would require the Department of Children and Family Services to come up with a curriculum where parents would meet with parents of dead gang members, learn how to identify gang and drug activity, learn how to communicate effectively with adolescents and among other things hear the potential penalties against parents for aiding and abetting crimes committed by their children.
Settingsgaard asked, "Can they actually get the parents to show up? I think in principal it's a good idea."
That's the same question mentor and former gang mentor Ron Willis asked about the bill.
"Most of the parents of boys I mentor as far as gang activity, all single parent mothers. Every single one. And they're already, they're under a lot of pressure already," Willis said.
Willis said those moms are already so busy working and taking care of other kids, it might be unrealistic to expect them to show up to a meeting.
"Their time is stretched. So being able to mandate them to a class, a lot of people, it's going to be very hard," he said.
But Willis said that might be a sacrifice these parents have to make.
State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth is a chief co-sponsor of the bill and she said DCFS will try to work around parents schedules.
But both Willis and Settingsgaard say, it's an important start in talking to families before their kids are full fledged gang members.
"If it reaches some parents, if it makes a difference in some households it may be worth the effort," Settingsgaard said.
The bill states that the minor's family will be in charge of paying for the classes unless a court finds that they can't afford it.
Representative Gordon-Booth said lawmakers are still discussing where that funding would come from.
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