THE NEW ILLINOIS SCHOOL DISCIPLINE LAW

April 18th, 2016

Illinois has made changes to its law governing student expulsions and suspensions that are intended to benefit students. Like many well-intentioned laws, however, the new law may make little difference in how schools actually conduct their procedures.

In terms of setting policy, the law is a good idea. Schools are no longer supposed to have zero tolerance policies where students are expelled on a first offense for particular behaviors. When expelling a student, any decision must detail the specific reasons why removing the student from the learning environment is a good idea along with a rationale for the length of the expulsion. For a suspension, the school board must explain the specific misconduct leading to the suspension as well as a rationale for its duration.

The new law encourages schools to limit the number and duration of suspensions/expulsions to the greatest extent practicable and use them for legitimate educational purposes only. Schools should first consider other forms of discipline.

Suspensions of three days or less may only be used if the student’s presence would pose a “threat to school safety” or “disruption to other students’ learning opportunities.” Suspensions or expulsions of longer than three days may only be used where other appropriate and available behavioral or disciplinary interventions have been exhausted and the student’s continuing presence would pose a threat to school safety or substantially disrupt the school.
During a suspension of more than four days, students are supposed to receive support services and may be placed in an alternative program. (See our related post: ”My Child May be Expelled!”: The Alternative Learning Program in Illinois.)

Sound good so far? Here’s the rub: School officials get to define the terms “threat to school safety” and “disruption of other students’ learning opportunities” on a case by case basis. What that really means depends on the school district. Unless parents take schools to court and win, school districts can in reality get away with quite a lot of disingenuous behavior. If the district is inclined to help its students, it will continue to do so. But if a district’s first response is expulsion, the district will simply inoculate itself by using the language required by the statute and throw your kid out of school anyway.

If your student is facing a discipline issue, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help guide you through a system that is generally biased in favor of the school. Sometimes the attorney can help negotiate a more favorable result. If not, an attorney can present evidence at the hearing in hopes of exonerating your student. Otherwise, it is important to have established a complete record at the school hearing level if you wish to take the matter to court.

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

Source: 105 ILCS 5/10-22.6 Suspension or expulsion of pupils.


(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.)

WHEN YOUR MARRIAGE BECOMES SCHOOL BUSINESS: SCHOOL RESIDENCY AND MARITAL SEPARATION IN ILLINOIS

August 5th, 2015

You and your husband no longer see eye to eye. You have not filed divorce papers, but you’ve decided to live apart—at least for now. You still hope you can work things out. One of you lives in an excellent school district so you would like your children to go there. Now the school is claiming that your children are not residents of the district and is handing you a whopping tuition bill.

Can they do that? What can happen to you?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).) However, you cannot live in a school district for the sole purpose of sending your child to that district’s schools. Therefore, you may have to prove you had other reasons for living there.

Well, you think, I am having marital issues, so I’m covered, right? Not necessarily. Legally speaking you would be correct. If you really moved because you separated from your spouse, then the schools aren’t your sole reason for living in that district. The problem comes in proving that to the school.

Unfortunately, many school districts still think we live in the 1950’s with idealized nuclear families. If you didn’t file divorce papers, the schools are suspicious. If you are ambivalent about your separation and still trying to make a go of your marriage, the schools are suspicious. If you get along too well with your spouse, the schools are suspicious. And that means that if your residency is challenged, the schools will want to know a lot about your business. This can include sharing the intimate details of your married life.

If you do file divorce papers, you may need a custody order giving the parent in the desired district residential custody. But if you haven’t filed, you will need a lot of evidence proving where you live, especially since the school will have undoubtedly sent an investigator to spy on you. The testimony of just you and your spouse is not enough.

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 your right to enroll your children may instead violate Illinois law. Our clients often unwittingly make incriminating statements before coming to us. 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.)

ILLINOIS SCHOOL RESIDENCY CHALLENGE: DON’T TRY TO DO THIS ON YOUR OWN

March 6th, 2015

Over the course of the year, this office receives many inquiries when a school district has alleged that a student is not a legal resident.

Many parents are reluctant to spend money to hire an attorney. They try talking to the district themselves, perhaps even attending a hearing without an attorney.

In most cases, this is a serious mistake.

Most parents do not understand Illinois school residency law well enough to help themselves. Even an attorney who is not well versed in school law, can commit well-intentioned blunders. Explanations that seem to make sense such as “I sent my child to live with my mother” or “I own rental units in that district” are not a defense.
Sometimes a situation seems odd to the school but is perfectly legitimate. Parents may not realize the lawful basis for their child’s residency and instead rely on evidence that is at best irrelevant and at worst harmful.

Parents must be aware that once the child is on the district’s radar, it’s very hard to get them off. The district may be relying on investigator’s reports or even something your child said at school. If you try to explain, the district may still see what it wants to see—a residency fraud.

Speaking to the school yourself may also make your attorney’s job harder as the attorney must now undo the damage.

If have a school residency issue, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation in its most favorable light. Even if your child is not a lawful school resident, an attorney can help negotiate a settlement with the district.

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.)

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.)