Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Editorial: Dear Teachers: free the phones!
Editorial: Dear Teachers: free the phones!
Central Times Editorial BoardSeptember 21, 2023
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Opinion: Amara Harris trial never should have happened

After three years of delays, two days of witness testimony and four hours of jury deliberation, the trial of Naperville North graduate Amara Harris finally came to a close on Aug. 10. The jury trial had garnered national press coverage ahead of the ‘not liable’ verdict.

But it never should have gotten that far.

More than three years ago, Amara Harris was charged with theft of her classmate’s AirPods. While she was charged by police, the evidence used in the case was gathered almost entirely by deans at the school.

Evidence that, notably, was gathered without reading Harris her miranda rights. The AirPods, which Harris believed were hers, were confiscated without Amara being read a basic set of constitutional rights. They never should have been admitted as evidence at trial.

And yet, they were. The AirPods became a centerpiece of the prosecution’s argument. Without them, the charges likely would have been dropped and the trial never would’ve gone to a jury. That same argument was made, unsuccessfully, by Harris’ defense attorney back in 2020.

Instead, Associate Judge Kenton Skarin issued a ten-page opinion admitting the evidence with plenty of precedent to back up his stance.

Now, on a federal level, this precedent makes sense. Teachers and deans are not typically agents of the police, and thus don’t need to read the same rights as law enforcement does. After all, school officials are meant to assist students through struggles, not punish them.

But on the state level, the precedence set by the Illinois Courts is one I vehemently disagree with.

Specifically, an Illinois statute requires specific language derived from Miranda rights to be read to any minor who is “subject to custodial interrogation by a law enforcement officer, State’s Attorney, juvenile officer, or other public official or employee.” But despite this, Illinois courts have rejected the argument that this law extends to public school employees.

I challenge this stance. Public school officials should absolutely be held to the same standard as other public employees when questioning minors in situations like Harris’. The entire point of that state statute is to protect minors, and there is no place more important than the location where they spend most of their day five times a week: school.

If my stance had been the one which is precedent in our state instead, the AirPods would have never been admissible in the case against Amara Harris. She never would have had to fight charges for years as she graduated high school and went on to attend college. She never would have had to pay thousands of dollars to attorneys just so that she could clear her name. She never would have had to wait as a jury deliberated for hours as they determined her fate.

Harris was ruled not liable, but it never should have even gotten to that point.

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About the Contributor
C.J. Getting, News Editor
C.J. is a junior entering his third year on Staff for the Central Times. He’s always loved writing news, and is excited to work as the News Editor this year. When he’s not writing for CT, C.J. can be found captaining the Debate Team or helping out SAC or JSA. He also desperately needs to detox from volunteering. After graduation, C.J. hopes to major in Political Science and spend too much money on Law School someday.

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