Illinois Law Bans Schools From Fining Children With Tickets. So the Police Are Doing It for Them.
The nearly 30 students summoned to the Tazewell County Courthouse that January morning were not facing criminal charges; they’d received tickets for violating a municipal ordinance while at school. Each was presented with a choice: agree to pay a fine or challenge the ticket at a later hearing. Failing to pay, they were told, could bring adult consequences, from losing their driving privileges to harming their future credit scores.
Across Illinois, police are ticketing thousands of students a year for in-school adolescent behavior once handled only by the principal’s office — for littering, for making loud noises, for using offensive words or gestures, for breaking a soap dish in the bathroom.
Ticketing students violates the intent of an Illinois law that prohibits schools from fining students as a form of discipline. Instead of issuing fines directly, school officials refer students to police, who then ticket them for municipal ordinance violations, an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica has found. (Use our interactive database to look up how many and what kinds of tickets have been issued in an Illinois public school or district.)
Another state law prohibits schools from notifying police when students are truant so officers can ticket them. But the investigation found dozens of school districts routinely fail to follow this law.