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CCI’s Robert Gilligan testifies at violence prevention task force

Catholic Conference of Illinois Executive Director Robert Gilligan today testified before an Illinois House panel charged with finding solutions to teen violence, noting innovative methods being used by Catholic schools and parishes.

Gilligan told the bipartisan panel of lawmakers on the Violence Prevention Task Force that a school in the Peoria diocese recently implemented an anti-bullying program that trains students to recognize bullying among their peers. Read more about that program here.

He also noted that St. Agatha's parish in Chicago was using "peace hubs" for conflict resolution for such offenses as petty thefts, instead of turning to the juvenile justice system.

"It's the principle of restorative justice," Gilligan said.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, called for the formation of the task force in January, citing recent findings in a new report on the December 2012 shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate in its report noted "weaknesses and lapses in the educational and healthcare systems’ response and untreated mental illness" played a role in the continued mental deterioration of the gunman, Adam Lanza. Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people and then himself.

The task force also heard testimony from child welfare advocacy groups, social service agencies, education officials, mental heath experts, law enforcement, and other religious groups.