LOOK-ALIKE DRUGS: BIG TROUBLE AT SCHOOL AND BEYOND

January 6th, 2013

They were just energy mints.

But the mints were in unmarked packages, and the Pekin, Illinois school officials thought the mints looked like illegal drugs. As a result, four students were suspended. ( TODAY SHOW October 9, 2012.)

In an effort to keep schools safe and drug-free, many districts ban the possession, distribution, purchase or sale of look-alike drugs. For example, New Trier High School may discipline students for serious misconduct involving the sale of look-alike drugs. (New Trier Township High School District 203, Board of Education Policy 7-200.)
Lincolnshire High School defines a look-alike or counterfeit drug as a substance that the student believes to be or represents to be illegal, or a substance where the student engaged in behavior that would cause a reasonable person to believe the drug was illegal. ( Lincolnshire-Prairie View School District 103 2012-2013 Parent-Student Handbook.)

Depending on the school district, students caught with look-alike substances can be suspended or even expelled. And in some cases, the offense could lead to criminal charges under Illinois law. See our related criminal law blog at Look-alike Drugs: A Felony in Illinois.

If the school seeks to discipline you for look-alike drugs, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the situation with the school district yourself. Time and time again, well-meaning parents or students have provided the ammunition needed for the school to punish their child. An attorney can help determine the best way to present your child’s case at a hearing or can assist in working out an agreement on the discipline.

If you have questions about this or another related school or criminal matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“CAN MY CHILD LIVE WITH MY RELATIVE?”: SCHOOL RESIDENCY IN ILLINOIS

September 4th, 2012

Like any good parent, you want your child to have the best education possible. Unfortunately, the school district where you live just doesn’t cut it. You do have a family member, however, such as a parent, an aunt or an uncle, that happens to live in a great school district. Can you send your child to live with them?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. The child’s residence is deemed to be with the person who has legal custody. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).)

So why not give legal custody to your relative?

Under Illinois law, you cannot send your child to live in a school district for the sole purpose of attending that district’s schools. You must have other, more compelling reasons to appoint your relative as the child’s guardian. Perhaps you are unable to care for your child, and your relative is really providing a stable home. Perhaps the child is living with the relative because you cannot afford to support them.

The Illinois court has ruled in favor of a child attending his aunt’s Illinois school district where the parents sent the child from Mexico because of greater social and economic opportunities. In another case, the children lived with their aunt after their mother’s remarriage because the new husband did not want the children in his home.

However, the Illinois Supreme court ruled against one family where a sister moved in with her brother because she preferred to live with him and to help care for his infant children. The Illinois court was not convinced, finding that the sister lived with the brother for the sole purpose of attending school.

If you receive a notice about your child’s residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation to the school in its most favorable light. Do not try to handle the matter yourself. What you believe is a right to enroll your children in school may instead violate Illinois law. You could make incriminating statements. Plus, a school hearing officer is more likely to rule for the school if you represent yourself. Your child may be barred from attending that district, and you could face a hefty tuition bill as well as criminal charges.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

PAYING TAXES IS NOT ENOUGH: ILLINOIS SCHOOL RESIDENCY

April 10th, 2012

The city where you live does not have good schools. You really want to send your child to a neighboring school district, but you do not live there. You do, however, own some rental property. Or maybe, you are thinking of purchasing rental property in that district. You figure, you pay the taxes, shouldn’t your child be allowed to attend the schools?

In Illinois, the answer is no. While it may not seem fair, paying real estate taxes is not enough to establish residency for school purposes.

The Illinois Supreme Court dealt squarely with this issue in Connelly by Connelly v Gibbs. A Chicago family wanted to obtain the improved special education services available to Skokie’s District 219 residents. Therefore, the family bought a condo in Skokie. The father and son lived in the condo during the week, but returned home on weekends. The Court specifically rejected this arrangement. Even though the family owned real estate in Skokie and paid real estate taxes for Skokie schools, the Court said that the Skokie residence was not the student’s “regular fixed, nighttime abode.” Furthermore, the family could not live in the condo for the sole purpose of going to school. Therefore, the son could not attend the schools and the family could be charged tuition.

Based on this case, Illinois residents can only send their children tuition free to the district where they intend to make a permanent home with a fixed nighttime abode, but not solely for the purpose of going to school. Owning real estate or even leasing an apartment in another community is not enough to establish school residency.

If you receive notice from your child’s school disputing your residency, do not attempt to handle this matter yourself. Parents often make incriminating statements that could cost them thousands of dollars in tuition money. While we never advise any client to lie or perpetuate a fraud on the school district, which is a criminal act, an experienced school law attorney can help you present your case in the best light. If you are a legitimate resident, an attorney can help establish that with the school district. If you are not, the attorney may be able to help minimize the costs to you.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

‘MY CHILD MAY BE EXPELLED!:” THE ALTERNATIVE LEARNING PROGRAM IN ILLINOIS

March 6th, 2012

To your unmitigated surprise, your high school student has been involved in drug dealing. The school seems to have some evidence against your child, and a disciplinary hearing has been scheduled. In preparation, you hired an attorney, but you are afraid your child may still be expelled or suspended for a significant time.

Many Illinois schools take offenses such as drug dealing or even minor possession of drugs very seriously. Even a relatively minor scuffle with a staff person can result in expulsion. This means that otherwise good kids demonstrating an adolescent lapse in judgment can be thrown out of their school. Illinois law, however, allows students who are expelled or suspended to be immediately transferred to an alternative learning program (ALP) unless the student presents a safety risk to others in the program. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 5/10-22.6). The ALP must also be available to any student who has been expelled or suspended for more than 20 days.

If your child is transferred, staff from both the original school and the ALP must meet to formulate an individualized learning plan, which includes the plan’s duration, its specific academic or behavioral components, and a time frame for reviewing the student’s progress. (105 ILCS 5/13A-4.). You, the parent, must be invited to the meeting. The regional superintendent must coordinate a multi-disciplinary curriculum for your child which could include community service or work-based credit and should address your child’s individual needs with an emphasis on making his or her educational experience a meaningful one. (105 ILCS 5/13A-5.)

The ALP came about as part of an effort to balance the needs of the school environment with the needs of the individual student. Troubled students can disrupt the classroom and cause time to be diverted from other students. While expulsion helped make schools safer and more productive, the punishment did not serve the needs of the student who was removed. Therefore, Illinois established the alternative program in 1997. http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/html/regional_safe_schools.htm

If your child is accused of an offense facing expulsion or suspension, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. You and your child should refrain from making statements to the school before getting an attorney’s advice. An attorney may also be able to help present your child’s case to the school board at the discipline hearing. Unlike criminal offenses, school districts do not require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find your student guilty. But even if the school has sufficient evidence, an attorney can help present the case in its most favorable light in an effort to obtain a reduced punishment.

If you have questions about this or another related school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

CHANGES TO ILLINOIS LAW ALLOWS SCHOOLS TO SUSPEND STUDENTS FOR ON-LINE MISCONDUCT

December 5th, 2011

Beginning January 12, 2011, Illinois schools will have the right to expel or suspend students for gross misconduct or disobedience committed using electronic means.

In some ways, the revised law only reflects what many school districts already have in place. For example, Evanston Township High School’s policy manual allows discipline if “a student’s personal Internet expression, such as a threatening message to another student or a violent website, creates a likelihood of material disruption of the school’s operations, that student may face school discipline and criminal penalties.”

The revised School Code also adds a section regarding on-line threats. A student may be suspended for up to ten days or expelled for up to two years if:

“i) The student has been determined to have made an explicit threat on an internet website against a school employee, a student, or any school-related personnel;
ii) The Internet website through which the threat was made is a site that was accessible within the school at the time the threat was made or was available to third parties who worked or studied within the school grounds at the time the threat was made;
iii) The threat can be reasonably interpreted as threatening to the safety and security of the threatened individual because of his or her duties or employment status or status as a student inside the school.”

See: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=097-0340

The ability to discipline students for something which happened off school grounds often depends on whether there is a link between the misconduct and the school. The above revisions to the school code spell out ways in which that link can happen. For example, under the revised law, a student could be disciplined for posting a threat while off school grounds if the threatened person is related to the school or the threat was accessible to third parties at school when the threat was made.

If you have questions about this or another school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE POSTED THAT!:” SOCIAL MEDIA AND SCHOOL RESIDENCY

October 5th, 2011

Most parents are vaguely aware of the dangers of social media such as Facebook, at least when it comes to their kids. Ill-advised remarks or embarrassing photos on a Facebook page can lead to your child’s suspension at school or rejection from a college.

But students are not the only ones who must watch what they do in cyber world. Parents in danger of a school residency challenge should post with care. Recently, a Tennessee mother frustrated with her sons let the residency cat out of the bag. (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

In the Tennessee incident, high school athletic association rules required that all members of a family reside within the county in order for students to be eligible to play on the high school football team. The two sons had transferred to the new school, and the team had won several games. Then, the athletic association learned that the sons were not eligible for the new school’s team as the mother was still living in the original school’s county. And officials learned this fact from the mother’s own Facebook post:

“… the mother actually works in Henry County, and she posted on her Facebook page that she sent the kids back to Perry County for the week and that she would not see them again until Friday night….Then, later on her Facebook page, she posted, ‘How can two boys mess up their room as badly as they do when they’re only here on Saturday and Sunday?'” (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

As a result, the team’s first three wins of the season were vacated. The story even made the United Kingdom Daily Mail. That is pretty embarrassing, but in suburban Chicago, the consequences could have been much more severe. Suburban schools are actively on the watch for students who do not legitimately reside in their district. Any parent who gives false information about their residency to a school can be charged with a criminal offense. Non-resident students can be removed from school and their parents can be stuck with a steep tuition bill.

If you have questions about this or another school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

REGISTERING YOUR CHILD FOR SCHOOL CAN BE RISKY BUSINESS

August 5th, 2011

It’s back to school time for many families, and along with it comes the hassle of registration. But as financial pressures on schools increase, so does the pressure to ensure that only residents of a school district are attending the school.

This means stiffer requirements on parents to prove residency in their school district. Worse still, more and more schools are suing parents for tuition and pressing criminal charges.

If you lie about your residency status to a school district in Illinois, you can be charged with providing false information, a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. One Ohio mother was jailed for 9 days for tampering with official records, according to the Chicago Tribune. ( http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-school-residency-crackdown-08020110805,0,2203995.story) In Illinois, Orland Park successfully prosecuted a father for providing false information about residency to its district and is now suing to recoup $24,208 in tuition costs.

Because a criminal case has a higher burden of proof than a civil case, it is critical that you fight the criminal case. Once you are found guilty of lying in the criminal case, that finding might be binding in the civil case. You may not be able to reopen the question of your guilt. Parents can be liable for 110% of the cost of educating their child.

Of course, not all parents accused of wrongfully registering their children are guilty. There can be some very good reasons why you don’t appear to live in the district when you actually do. Maybe you can no longer afford your home in your old district, but have been unable to sell it. Maybe you don’t have a lot of personal belongings, so that your home doesn’t look “lived in” enough. Maybe you have a unique parenting arrangement.

In any case, if you are presented with the notice from the school that your child is wrongfully enrolled, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the matter yourself. Schools, at times, look for what they want to hear and may use your statements against you. An attorney can assess what evidence is necessary to prove you are a resident. Even if you are in the wrong, an attorney may be able to work out a deal with the school on your behalf.

If you have questions about this or another criminal or school law matter, contact Matt Keenan at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CURFEW LAW IN ILLINOIS

May 31st, 2011

Your son was out at a school party. After the party, he and some friends went to the park and hung around until after midnight. That’s when the police arrived. Now your son is charged with violating curfew, and you may be penalized as a result.

In Illinois, a child under the age of 17 violates curfew when he or she lingers or stays in a public place or even a private business during curfew hours. Curfew hours are from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings. Violating curfew is a petty offense carrying a fine up to $500, and a judge can order the parent to perform community service. A parent or guardian can also be charged with a curfew violation if they knowingly allow a minor to violate curfew.

Fortunately, there are many exceptions to this rule. Your child can be out during curfew hours if they are with you. Your child can stand on the sidewalk next to your or your neighbor’s house (provided the neighbor doesn’t call the police if it’s by their house). You can send your child to the store or on another errand and your child can keep a job, provided they do not detour in route. Other defenses include riding in a motor vehicle in interstate travel; being involved in an emergency; attending an official school, religious, civic or recreational function supervised by adults or exercising First Amendment rights.

When it comes to driving, curfew applies to licensed drivers under the age of 18 (rather than 17). You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights. However, many of the same exceptions to curfew apply to your driver’s license as well. You may drive if 1) you are accompanied by your parent or guardian or running an errand at their request, 2) involved in an emergency, 3) driving to or from a religious, recreational or school activity without making stops, 4) driving on the interstate, 5) going to or from work, 6) you are married or otherwise emancipated, or 7) you are exercising First Amendment rights.

Municipalities are allowed to enact their own regulations. The Village of Winnetka simply adopted the state’s law. In Evanston, however, the fine can be as much as $750. Curfew hours have also been tightened by one hour from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Evanston law allows a parent to delegate someone over age 21 to accompany their child. In Kenilworth, the parent-approved companion need only be 18. Glencoe allows a minor to attend any assembly activity “for which a permit has been lawfully issued.”

While under Illinois law, the parent commits an offense if they knowingly allow a minor to violate the law, the Village of Wilmette also penalizes a parent or guardian who “knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows,” the minor to violate the law. Furthermore, if you are the owner or an employee of a business and you knowingly allow a minor to remain on your premises during curfew hours, you can be charged with a curfew violation. However, it is a defense if you notified the police when a minor is refusing to leave your premises.

If you are approached by police for a curfew violation, the officer must first ask your age and why you are out. Think carefully before responding. If you have a legitimate defense, the officer might not charge you. An officer may only charge you if they reasonably believe, based on your response, that you have no defense. However, without a defense, it may be better if you do not answer. An experienced attorney can better assist you if you have not already made admissions of guilt. Even if you have committed a curfew violation, an experienced criminal law attorney can help navigate the best strategy for your defense. If you are the parent, did you “knowingly” allow your child to violate curfew? At worst, an attorney may help negotiate a more beneficial plea agreement.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“HELP: MY CHILD HAS BEEN CYBERBULLIED!”: SCHOOL HARRASSMENT IN THE INTERNET AGE

April 4th, 2011

Your child came home upset from school and wouldn’t talk about it. After checking her Facebook account (you were wise enough to insist on being friended), you discover the root of the problem. Someone has been using the internet to spread vicious lies about your child.

Naturally, you are livid and want to protect your child. Can you make it stop? Can you insure that the bully is punished? What are your options?

Depending on the nature of the cyber-bullying, you may have various avenues open to you at the criminal, civil and school law levels. If the bullying involves threats to your child or continued harrassment, you may be able to obtain a restraining order in either criminal or civil court as well as press criminal charges. If the bullying has caused your child severe emotional or mental distress, you may be able to sue the parents of the bully in civil court for financial damages.

At the school level, the new Illinois anti-bullying law prohibits bullying through the use of a school computer or network. The school is legally obligated to maintain a bullying prevention policy, and this policy must be filed with the state.

Even if a school computer or network were not used, some schools will discipline students if their actions outside school cause in-school problems. For example, the Evanton Township High School student handbook states under cyber-bullying that:

“Students who engage in such activity on school grounds or who engage in such
activity off campus and create a material disruption of school operations shall be subject
to penalties for bullying and harassment as well as possible criminal penalties. Students’
home and personal Internet use can have an impact on the school and on other students. If
a student’s personal Internet expression, such as a threatening message to another student
or a violent website, creates a likelihood of material disruption of the school’s operations,
that student may face school discipline and criminal penalties.”

When cyber-bullying does occur, it may help to consult an attorney. At times, the schools are slow or unwilling to act, and an attorney can advocate for your child. An attorney can also help you obtain a restraining order as well as determine whether you have a viable civil lawsuit or if you should attempt to press criminal charges.

If you have questions about cyber-bullying or another school related issue, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

WHY YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY FOR A SCHOOL RESIDENCY HEARING

December 6th, 2010

You just received notice from your child’s school that they believe your child is not a legitimate resident of your district. You request a hearing on the matter. You believe you have nothing to fear since the truth is on your side, and once you explain your circumstances, you are sure the whole thing will simply go away.

Unfortunately, you go through the hearing, and to your surprise, the district hands you a tuition bill and removes your child from registration.

Time and time again, my clients call me after they have already gone through the residency hearing where I could have helped them the most cost-effectively. They naively believe if they can explain their situation, the school district will see the truth. Unfortunately, such clients misunderstand the reality of the school hearing process.

Once a hearing is requested, the school district appoints a hearing officer. At times, the hearing officer may be one of the district’s staff and can hardly be expected to render an unbiased decision. At times, the school appoints an independent hearing officer.

What the parent fails to understand is that either way the hearing officer benefits most by finding a reason to uphold the school’s position. After all, the school pays the hearing officer and may retain them on future cases if things go well. By the time the matter comes to hearing, the school has virtually made up its mind. If the hearing officer wants to keep getting appointments, he or she would do well to find a peg to hang the school’s hat on.

When a parent appears without an attorney, this signals the school district that the parent is not willing to put serious money behind their fight. Odds are once the hearing officer rules, the parent will not appeal that decision. Hence, the hearing officer believes the school has nothing to lose even if the decision is wrong.

This is not to say that hearing officers are corrupt and dishonest. There are many fine individuals who take their jobs seriously. But the reality is they are more likely to keep getting that job if they see the school’s point of view.

Coming to the hearing with an attorney can signal that you are serious about contesting the school’s finding. An attorney can also help present the evidence most favorable to your case.

If you have questions about this or another school law topic, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email .
matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.