The Price Kids Pay: Schools and Police Punish Students with Costly Tickets for Minor Misbehavior

In 2015 Illinois legislators passed Senate Bill 100 prohibiting schools from fining students as a form of discipline. However, the law did not apply to police and schools have since referred students to police who ticket thousands of students per year for municipal ordinance violations. The fines can cost hundreds of dollars often with additional fees tacked on, and if unpaid, they can be sent to collections or deducted from payroll checks and tax refunds. Using Freedom of Information Act requests and observations of the hearings for these tickets, The Tribune and ProPublica investigated the practice of student ticketing finding more than 11,800 tickets issued during the last three school years. This article highlights those findings.

Read the full article here

Key Findings: 

  • Of 199 districts, ticketing occurred in at least 141, and were issued to students as young as 8 years old.
  • In addition to tickets, students also faced suspensions, detentions or other forms of discipline at school. 
  • Revenue from tickets goes to the municipalities to fund the ticketing system including the employees who manage the hearings, lawyers who prosecute the cases and hearing officers who rule on them. 
  • Black students were disproportionately ticketed.
  • Fines and punishments are set by local governments and can vary widely. Some students are required to do community service or participate in counseling or an educational program rather than pay a fine.
  • Police ticketed students most frequently for possessing tobacco, e-cigarettes or other vaping materials. Police also ticketed for fights, disorderly conduct, and truancy. 
  • Hearings use a lower standard of proof than criminal cases; students can be found liable if the allegation is more likely to have occurred than not.
  • Records created by the ticketing process can follow a child because ordinance violations are considered adult offenses that are ineligible for expungement.
Jodi S. Cohen and Jennifer Smith Richards