Our local schools employ city police as “school resource officers” (SROs) via intergovernmental agreements, and have for years. The objectives are enhanced safety and better relations between law enforcement and the public.
What people don’t know is many Illinois schools, including District 428, have turned to SROs to take on disciplinary roles for school infractions such as fighting or vaping. This typically means issuing citations for offenses that also happen to be violations of municipal ordinances. The result is children being thrown into an adult system called “administrative hearings” where they risk stiff fines, debt, and a record that can’t be expunged.
The flaws of the municipal hearing system don’t just fall on the children, however. In addition to the absence of protections one finds in juvenile courts, city administrative hearings lack the evidentiary standards of real court proceedings while providing all of its financial risks. This might be tolerable when the worst outcome is a $25 parking ticket. In DeKalb, other ordinance violations fetch fines reaching into the hundreds of dollars and involve hidden fees and court costs.
Additionally, the so-called “offenders,” when not children ticketed in their own schools, are drawn into the system from some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
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