Schools in Illinois are banned from using fines to discipline students. But in recent years, according to a recent investigation by the Tribune and ProPublica, schools have worked with local police to issue tickets to students for minor infractions.
Instead of fining students directly, school officials notify police of the student’s behavior, and the officer then cites the student for violating a municipal ordinance.
As a result, students across the state have faced costly fines and other serious consequences for locker room fights, smoking on campus, skipping class and other school-related misconduct often previously handled by the principal.
In “The Price Kids Pay,” reporters from the Tribune and ProPublica found that local police wrote more than 12,000 tickets to students in dozens of school districts across the state in recent years. Reporters uncovered that Black students were more likely to be ticketed at school than their white peers and found that failure to pay ticket fines can lead to debt collection and even garnishment of wages or tax refunds.
Now, at a free event hosted by ProPublica in partnership with the Tribune and the Journalism Education Association, student journalists can learn how to report on ticketing on their own school campuses. The virtual event takes place at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 1.
Tribune reporter Jennifer Smith Richards and ProPublica reporter Jodi S. Cohen will explain how they uncovered and documented ticketing in schools and detail how student journalists can pursue stories on the topic. Cohen and Smith Richards will show how to seek public records and highlight best journalistic practices to report on the issue.