Bourbonnais goldfish

This is a screenshot sent to the Daily Journal of the Facebook post about Principal Shannon Swilley swallowing a goldfish.

BOURBONNAIS — Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said his office will not file charges against a Bourbonnais elementary school principal who was seen in a picture posted to social media preparing to swallow a live goldfish as a reward for students achieving higher test scores last month.

The picture of Bourbonnais Upper Grade School Principal Shannon Swilley was posted on the school district’s Facebook page on Jan. 26. It has since been deleted.

An individual contacted the Daily Journal via email about the incident and shared a screenshot of the Facebook post. The email stated that Fish Feel, an advocacy organization based in Silver Springs, Md., had contacted Kankakee County Animal Control as it believes the incident rose to the level of animal cruelty, which is a felony in Illinois.

“State law does not consider a feeder goldfish to be a ‘companion animal,’” Rowe said Wednesday. “I respect the work of the Fish Feel organization, but we would not pursue felony charges under these circumstances.”

The Journal attempted to contact Bourbonnais Elementary Interim Superintendent Dr. Margaret Longo via phone and email.

Since the incident occurred in Bourbonnais, animal control contacted Bourbonnais police to investigate.

On Wednesday, Bourbonnais Deputy Chief Dave Anderson said the case was closed as far as the department was concerned. Anderson said he talked to Swilley on Wednesday and that Swilley said he regretted the incident.

“He’s very sorry for bringing attention to the school district,” Anderson said. “We understand animal rights and respect them as well. We get it. There are groups trying to defend the rights of animals.”

Fish Feel President Mary Finelli said Swilley should “apologize to the children.”

“It’s appalling that anyone would swallow a live animal, let alone the principal of an elementary school in front of the students,” Finelli said. “Science has shown that fish suffer fear and pain. They are sentient beings who deserve respect and compassion, not gratuitous cruelty.”

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