Gavel Stock Photo

Illinois jury clears woman who was accused of stealing earbuds 4 years ago in high school

Aug. 10, 2023
The case focused attention on the practice of police issuing tickets to students at school.

A jury has found a former Naperville, Illinois, high school student not liable in an unusual civil trial involving a set of disputed AirPods and a ticket issued to the student nearly four years a Naperville police officer.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the jury ruled in favor of Amara Harris, 20, who was issued a ticket in 2019 when she was a student at Naperville North High School.

An officer assigned to Naperville North wrote her a ticket that accused her of stealing another girl’s AirPods, a violation of municipal law.

The case focused attention on the widespread practice of police ticketing students at school,

ProPublica and the Tribune reported on Harris’ case last year as part of an investigation in which reporters documented 12,000 tickets Illinois students received over nearly three years for violations including possession of vaping devices, disorderly conduct and truancy. Fines associated with the tickets can run into the hundreds of dollars.

The investigation also found that Black students at Naperville North High School were almost five times more likely than their white classmates to receive tickets. Harris is Black.

Most students who receive municipal ordinance citations admit liability and pay the fine. Because of the lower burden of proof, fighting the tickets is difficult and costly. 

After the verdict, one of Harris’ attorneys, S. Todd Yeary, called the ticketing system a “money grab” and the decision to prosecute Harris “malicious.”

Harris had maintained that she picked up another student’s AirPods accidentally, mistaking them for her own. Supported by her mother, she declined to pay a fine or settle the case.

The city of Naperville took the matter all the way to a jury trial at the DuPage County Courthouse.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

Sponsored Recommendations

Providing solutions that help creativity, collaboration, and communication.

Discover why we’re a one-stop shop for all things education. See how ODP Business Solutions can help empower your students, school, and district to succeed by supporting healthier...

Building Futures: Transforming K–12 Learning Environments for Tomorrow's Leaders

Discover how ODP Business Solutions® Workspace Interiors partnered with a pioneering school system, overcoming supply chain challenges to furnish 18 new K–12 campuses across 4...

How to design flexible learning spaces that teachers love and use

Unlock the potential of flexible learning spaces with expert guidance from school districts and educational furniture providers. Discover how to seamlessly integrate adaptive ...

Blurring the Lines in Education Design: K–12 to Higher Ed to Corporate America

Discover the seamless integration of educational and corporate design principles, shaping tomorrow's leaders from kindergarten to boardroom. Explore innovative classroom layouts...