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Illinois official tells schools to stop using police to issue tickets to students

April 29, 2022
State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala says schools are circumventing laws that are meant to prohibit the fining of students.

The top education official in Illinois is urging schools to stop working with police to ticket students for misbehavior.

The Chicago Tribune reports that State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala made her comments hours after an investigation by ProPublica and the Tribune found that many Illinois schools were evading laws designed to prohibit the fining of students.

Ayala said the  fines associated with the tickets can be harmful to families, and there’s no evidence they improve students’ behavior. School officials who refer students to police for ticketing have “abdicated their responsibility for student discipline to local law enforcement,” she wrote.

“If your district/schools are engaging in this practice, I implore you to immediately stop and consider both the cost and the consequences of these fines,” Ayala wrote.

In their “The Price Kids Pay” investigation, ProPublica and the Tribune reported that local police are issuing thousands of tickets a year to students for violations of municipal laws, often for misconduct as minor as littering or vaping. Each ticket can come with hundreds of dollars in fines or fees and force many families into burdensome payment plans that can eat up paychecks.

“The only consequences of the tickets are to impose a financial burden on already struggling families and to make students feel even less cared for, less welcome, and less included at school, which in turn leads to more antisocial and defiant behavior,” Ayala wrote.

An Illinois law passed in 2015 prohibits schools from using fines to discipline students. Instead, the investigation found, schools have been referring students to police, who then write costly tickets — taking advantage of what Ayala characterized as a “loophole” in the law. Students received more than 11,800 tickets for school misbehavior in the last three school years, the investigation found.

Another law, dating to 2019, directly bans schools from reporting truant students to authorities so the students can be ticketed. But the investigation identified about 40 schools or districts that have been referring students to police for truancy.

The investigation found that students were issued tickets most frequently for possession of vaping devices or cannabis, disorderly conduct, fighting and truancy. But police also wrote tickets for such offenses as littering, being disruptive and property damage — for breaking a soap dish in a school bathroom, for example. The investigation focused on high schools but found that children 12 and under also had been ticketed in some districts.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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