Teen Fined $500 Over Stealing Accusations Is Suing City For Violating Her Civil Rights

Amara Harris

Amara Harris, a young Black woman from suburban Chicago, is taking legal action against Naperville, Illinois, alleging civil rights violations following a contentious high school ticketing incident.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, accuses the city, along with former school-based police officer Juan Leon and his supervisor Jonathan Pope, of racial discrimination and malicious prosecution.

According to Tribune-Propublica, Harris’ legal battle began when she was a high school junior in 2019, targeted by a city police officer based at the school for allegedly violating a municipal ordinance against theft.

Despite her maintaining innocence and a lack of evidence, Harris faced a protracted legal ordeal, culminating in a rare jury trial in August, where she was found not liable after a three-day trial.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages of at least $20 million, punitive damages, and calls for training and oversight within Naperville and its police department to prevent future civil rights violations.

Harris, who graduated from Spelman College, hopes her case will not only rectify her experience but also bring attention to the unfair treatment of students, particularly Black students, in disciplinary matters involving law enforcement.

The legal action follows a Tribune-ProPublica investigation that highlighted the disproportionate targeting of Black students for police ticketing in Illinois schools.

Despite efforts to address the issue at the state level, including calls from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to halt school-based ticketing, systemic changes have been slow to materialize.

Harris’ lawsuit represents a significant step in holding accountable institutions responsible for discriminatory practices in school discipline.