Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 and Palatine Village officials said they will comply with the Illinois attorney general’s request for information about student discipline as part of a rights investigation civilians regarding the disparate treatment of minority students.
In a May 18 letter to District 211, Attorney General Kwame Raoul requests data and proceedings for the past four school years by the end of June.
The letter cites an April 28 article from the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica titled “The Price Kids Pay: Schools, Police Punish Students With Costly Tickets for Minor Misbehavior.”
“Based on recently released reports of the impact of tickets and fines issued by local police departments, including the Palatine Police Department, to District 211 students charged with minor school-related infractions such as whether truancy or disorderly conduct, the OAG exercises its authority to request information about whether these practices violate civil rights laws,” Raoul wrote.
The letter requests specific categories of records and information broken down by race, gender, disability, school, the police department that issued the ticket, the reason for it and the total fine. The Attorney General also asks for the number of tickets issued, dismissals and calls to law enforcement, out-of-school suspensions, transfers to alternative schools, and expulsions.
Amy Meek, chief of the attorney general’s civil rights office, said data cited in the April news article shows District 211 stands out in the number of tickets issued and the disparate impact on students from different breeds.
She stressed that the data alone is not proof of civil rights violations, but it does provide a basis for further investigation.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet,” Meek said Thursday. “They are one of the largest districts in the state. … At this point, it’s too early for us to draw conclusions.”
District 211 Superintendent Lisa Small and other administrators spoke to the Daily Herald on Thursday about the district’s many intervention programs that precede disciplinary action. They cited successful efforts to address truancy and vaping, home visits by district staff, and a struggling student who bonded closely with a school resource officer.
“I don’t think those stories got out (in the media),” Small said.
“We are always evaluating our procedures,” she added.
Palatine Village Director Reid Ottesen acknowledged receiving a similar request for information from the attorney general’s office.
“We will fully comply with the June 30 deadline they gave us,” Ottesen said.
Schools in District 211 are serviced by the Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg Police Departments as well as Palatine. The district educates approximately 12,000 students at Conant, Fremd, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Schaumburg high schools, as well as two alternative schools.
Meek said the timeline for the District 211 investigation is difficult to estimate this early in the process, but could take up to a year before conclusions are reached.
• Daily Herald editor Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.