Jennifer Smith Richards

Reporter

Jennifer Smith Richards is a reporter for ProPublica. She began her journalism career writing obituaries in West Virginia, then covering small-town southern Ohio. She wrote about schools and education at newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia; Utica, New York; Savannah, Georgia, and Columbus, Ohio. She most recently worked for the Chicago Tribune, where her work exposed student ticketing at school, abusive educators, government misspending, sexual abuse in schools, lapses in police accountability and the mistreatment of students with disabilities. Her stories have prompted new state laws, the prosecution of school officials and the creation of child-protection units in school districts and state education departments.

Jennifer is a graduate of Ohio University and lives in Chicago.

Ticketed at School as a Teen, a Young Black Woman Is Suing an Illinois City for Violating Her Civil Rights

It took four years and a jury trial for Amara Harris to beat the ticket that accused her of stealing another girl’s AirPods. Now she’s heading back to court in the hope of stopping schools from using police to discipline students.

Illinois School Districts Sent Kids to a For-Profit Out-of-State Facility That Isn’t Vetted or Monitored

A state law was meant to help families by allowing the use of public money to fund students’ tuition at special education boarding schools around the country. But in solving one problem, lawmakers created another.

This School for Autistic Youth Can Cost $573,200 a Year. It Operates With Little Oversight, and Students Have Suffered.

No state agency has authority over Shrub Oak, one of the country's most expensive therapeutic boarding schools. As a result, parents and staff have nowhere to report bruised students and medication mix-ups.

Help ProPublica Report on Education

ProPublica is building a network of educators, students, parents and other experts to help guide our reporting about education. Take a few minutes to join our source network and share what you know.

A Chicago Cop Is Accused of Lying Under Oath 44 Times. Now Prosecutors Are Dropping Cases That Relied on His Testimony.

Former Chicago officer Jeffrey Kriv faces charges for perjury and forgery after getting out of dozens of traffic violations by claiming his girlfriend had stolen his car. Now, cases that stem from arrests Kriv made are in jeopardy.

Years After Being Ticketed at School for a Theft She Said Never Happened, Former Student Prevails in Court

Amara Harris declined plea deals and ultimately won a legal fight that dates back to 2019. Now she and her attorneys want to push for statewide reforms.

Illinois Officials Will Try a Second Time to Make Good on Pledge to Reform Student Ticketing

Despite legislative setbacks, state leaders and Gov. J.B. Pritzker say they remain committed to stopping schools from continuing to use police to punish students.

This Cop Got Out of 44 Tickets by Saying Over and Over That His Girlfriend Stole His Car

Chicago police officer Jeffrey Kriv used the same alibi to contest dozens of traffic tickets over the years. A deeper look at his career sheds light on Chicago’s troubled history of police accountability.

A Chicago Suburb Stopped Ticketing Students. But It Won’t Stop Pursuing a 3-Year-Old Case Over Missing AirPods.

The city’s prosecution of a former student comes as the state considers a ban on ticketing students at school. The case is headed to a jury trial.

The Federal Government Is Investigating an Illinois School Where Students With Disabilities Were Frequently Arrested

The civil rights inquiry by the Department of Education follows a ProPublica and Chicago Tribune investigation that found the school regularly called police to arrest students.

New Bill Could End Police Ticketing in Illinois Schools

Students have continued to get costly citations for vaping, fighting and other misbehavior even after state officials directed educators to end the practice.

The School That Calls the Police on Students Every Other Day

An Illinois school for students with disabilities has routinely used the police to handle discipline, resulting in the highest arrest rate of any district in the country. In one recent year, half of Garrison School students were arrested.

State Investigation Reveals Racial Disparities in Student Discipline and Police Involvement

The Illinois civil rights probe of the state’s largest high school district comes after ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune documented thousands of police tickets issued to students for minor infractions.

New Data Gives Insight Into Ticketing at Five Suburban Chicago School Districts

ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune’s unique student ticketing database has been updated. Naperville data reveals signs of racial disparities in ticketing in one school but not in a second.

A Teen Was Ticketed at School for a Theft She Says Didn’t Happen. Years Later, She’s Still Fighting.

The Illinois student’s long ordeal shows the extraordinary effort it can take to overturn a school-related ticket. Her case — involving a missing pair of AirPods — is heading to a jury trial.

Illinois Will Investigate Possible Civil Rights Violations in Student Ticketing

The Illinois attorney general’s office said it is trying to determine if a suburban Chicago school district violated students’ civil rights when police ticketed them for minor misbehavior.

Illinois Will Stop Helping Cities Collect Some School Ticket Debt From Students

Since a Chicago Tribune-ProPublica investigation, school officials say they’re reevaluating when to involve law enforcement in student discipline.

Black Students in Illinois Are Far More Likely to Be Ticketed by Police for School Behavior Than White Students

Federal data has shown Illinois schools suspend and expel Black students at disproportionate rates. Now we know it’s happening with tickets and fines, too.

Illinois’ Education Chief Urges Schools to Stop Working With Police to Ticket Students for Misbehavior

Responding to a ProPublica-Chicago Tribune investigation, Illinois’ schools superintendent says ticketing students hurts children and their families.

The Price Kids Pay: Schools and Police Punish Students With Costly Tickets for Minor Misbehavior

Illinois law bans schools from fining students. So local police are doing it for them, issuing thousands of tickets a year for truancy, vaping, fights and other misconduct. Children are then thrown into a legal system designed for adults.

Follow ProPublica

Latest Stories from ProPublica