CAN YOU BE SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL IN ILLINOIS FOR DISOBEYING COVID RULES?

However you may feel about COVID restrictions, school administrators are taking this public safety threat very seriously. As a result, you could actually face school expulsion if you ignore the rules.

For example, University of Illinois requires all students, employees and visitors to wear masks inside any university facility, building or classroom. Masks must also be worn outdoors where social distancing of six feet apart cannot be maintained. Students who test positive for COVID must isolate for ten days.

While disobeying COVID policy may not be listed as a specific offense in a school’s student code, most schools have catch-all language for unspecified bad behavior. This language may include1) threatening anyone’s health or safety (including your own), 2) substantially interfering with maintaining order or 3) violating published rules.

If you are facing discipline charges, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Did you commit the offense? Does your act clearly violate COVID policy? Is the school following its own procedures? Is there any mitigation such as an otherwise spotless disciplinary record? An attorney can help you navigate the often confusing disciplinary process. At many schools, an attorney may not attend or speak at the school hearing. Even so, the attorney can help prepare you to make a more favorable impression.

If you have questions about this or another Illinois 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.)

WHAT IS “CAUSE” UNDER ILLINOIS LAW WHEN TERMINATING A TEACHER?

Under Illinois law, a teacher who is past their probationary period cannot be removed except for cause. But what is cause?

Cause may be remediable or irremediable. Remediable conduct may include substandard teaching. Irremediable conduct may include conduct that is cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal or in any way causes psychological or physical harm to a student.

For example, in Ahmad v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, a teacher falsely represented herself as a school district agent to obtain over $33,000 in free school supplies from a nonprofit organization that she intended to sell for her own profit; concealed her conduct from the district and refused to cooperate in the investigation. The court held that the teacher’s conduct was immoral and thus, irremediable. Immoral conduct is defined as shameless conduct showing moral indifference to the opinions of the good and respectable members of the community.

In contrast, the court in Jackson v. Bd. of Educ. did not find conduct immoral where a teacher failed to list his discharge from a police department on his employment application and failed to immediately report testing irregularities. The court stated that the board had failed to prove that the omission was intentional. Nor did the board have a procedure on how irregularities could be reported.

If you are a teacher facing termination, contact an school law attorney immediately. (You may wish to seek representation from your union.) You are entitled to different procedures depending on whether your conduct was remediable. An attorney can help prepare your case for hearing and help to define whether your conduct was in fact cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal.

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

See: 105 ILCS 5/34-85.

(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 ARE MY RIGHTS IN A TEACHER TERMINATION PROCEEDING UNDER ILLINOIS LAW?

Under Illinois law, you may only be terminated as a teacher for cause once your probationary period has expired. To do so, however, the school district must follow certain procedures. See: 105 ILCS 5/34-85.

If the alleged “cause” is remediable, you must receive a reasonable written warning specifically stating that such cause may result in charges unless you take steps to remove the problem. There are a couple exceptions to this rule, such as if you have failed a remediation plan or if the district and your union have agreed on an alternative system of remediation.

No written warning is required for irremediable conduct that is cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal or in any way causes psychological or physical harm a student. The language of the statute leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Before starting dismissal proceedings, the general superintendent must approve written charges and then serve notice upon you. Charges may be served by certified mail, return receipt requested, at your last known address. The notice must inform you of your rights regarding a hearing officer. If you wish to have a say in selecting a hearing officer from the school board’s list, you will have to pay half the hearing officer’s fees and costs. Otherwise, the district will pay any hearing officer selected solely by the board.

The hearing officer shall set a schedule which includes a deadline for you to answer the charges and state any affirmative defenses. Both you and the board must make certain disclosures at least ten calendar days before hearing including names of witnesses who will testify and other documentation. Failure to disclose such evidence on time may prevent you from using it at hearing. Procedures involving witnesses differ somewhat where the charges involve sexual or severe physical abuse of a student or someone under age 18.

You may attend the hearing with an attorney, testify on your own behalf, present and cross-examine witnesses. The hearing officer must begin the hearing within 75 calendar days and conclude within 120 calendar days after their selection although this schedule can be modified for cause or by mutual agreement. Each side has up to three days to present their case.

After the hearing, you have 21 days from receipt of a hearing transcript to submit a post-hearing brief. You must pay for your copy of the transcript, which may cost several hundred dollars. The hearing officer has 30 calendar days after the hearing to report their recommendation and factual findings on whether you should be dismissed. The board then has 45 days from receipt of that recommendation to make a decision.

If the board retains you, you may be entitled to back pay at that time. If the board dismisses you, an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District may be advised.

If you are a teacher facing termination, contact your union immediately for help. If you do not wish to proceed with the union’s attorney, you may retain a private attorney. Either way, an attorney can help present the facts of your case to the hearing officer in their best possible light. Because the Court of Appeals only reviews evidence from the hearing, it is critical that you submit every fact and argument in your favor at that time.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois education 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.)

NEW ILLINOIS LAW LETS STUDENTS LEAVE SCHOOL TO VOTE

As of June 1, 2020, high school students old enough to vote will not have to choose between exercising their constitutional rights and facing trouble over an unexcused absence.
Of course, this law may be less critical during the pandemic.

Under 10 ILCS 5/7-42, a student may leave school in order to vote for up to two hours during a school day. The student may vote election day or during early voting beginning the 15th day before an election. The school, however, may specify the hours when the student may be absent.

If you have questions about this or another Illinois 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.)

WHEN CAN A TENURED TEACHER BE FIRED WITHOUT REMEDIATION?

Under the law, public schoolteachers cannot be fired except for cause. In many cases, a teacher may go through a remediation process in order to keep their job. But some types of conduct are not eligible for that process.

What kind of charges allow a Board of Education to bypass the remediation process and go straight for termination? The answer is less clear than you might think.

Generally, a board must first issue a written warning for conduct that is remediable, unless a teacher displays conduct that is “cruel, immoral, negligent, or criminal or that in any way causes psychological or physical harm or injury to a student.” According to Illinois case law, this encompasses behavior that is “immoral at best, and criminal or quasi-criminal at worst.” That definition leaves a lot of wiggle room. For that reason, the answer can vary quite a bit from case to case, and the decision reached may depend a great deal on your particular hearing officer or judge.

For example, in Younge v. Board of Education, the court held that a teacher who reported to work under the influence of marijuana had engaged in criminal conduct was not entitled to remediation. However in Jackson v. Board of Education, a teacher who allegedly falsified his employment application and failed to report cheating on a test had not engaged in irremediable conduct. In part, the court found that the Board had not sustained its burden of proof and had not shown that the teacher’s omission of past work history was intentional.

More recently, the appellate court in Crawley v. Board of Education held that a teacher who had “misused” a total of eight sick days, two of them to take vacations, was guilty of irremediable behavior. The court noted that her students had been damaged ‘because their lesson plans and pedagogical continuity” were disrupted.

The definition of what or is not irremediable is anything but clear. Therefore, if you are faced with termination, it is important to contact an attorney (privately or through your union) as quickly as possible. An attorney can help present your situation in its most favorable light. School districts sometimes seem to play a game of “gotcha.” An attorney can highlight such loopholes in the Board’s case.

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.)

CAN THEY QUESTION MY CHILD AT SCHOOL? NEW RULES UNDER ILLINOIS LAW

As of August 23, 2019, Illinois has new ground rules regarding the need to notify a parent before questioning your minor child at school.

Before questioning a student on school grounds who is suspected of a crime 1) a law enforcement or school security official must try to notify you, 2) the school must document the time and manner of the notice, and 3) the school must make reasonable efforts to ensure you are present during questioning. If you cannot be present, then the school must include a school social worker, psychologist, nurse, guidance counselor or other mental health professional during questioning. Where practicable, the school must also make reasonable efforts to ensure that a law enforcement officer trained in promoting safe interactions with youth is present.

Such notice is not required in circumstances where a reasonable person would believe that urgent and immediate action is necessary to 1) prevent bodily harm, 2) apprehend an armed or fleeing suspect, 3) prevent the destruction of evidence or 4) deal with an emergency or other dangerous situation.

The above notice requirements do not bar law enforcement from arresting your child on school grounds.

Note that this law applies to questioning on school grounds. “School grounds” is defined as “the real property comprising an active and operational elementary or secondary school during the regular hours in which school is in session and when students are present.” It is not clear that parental notification is required at times when school is not in session or no students are present.

Crimes committed at school can lead to punishment under both the criminal justice system and the school disciplinary code. Your child can face expulsion as well as time in jail. As a criminal and school attorney, I can assist you with both aspects of this difficult situation in navigating both systems, evaluating the evidence, probing for weaknesses in the state and school’s cases and as a last resort, helping you negotiate a better outcome for your child than you might do on your own.

If you have questions, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

Source: 105 ILCS 5/22-85

(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.)

PASSING A SCHOOL BUS IN ILLINOIS

You saw the school bus, but you honestly didn’t see the stop sign extending from it. So you drove past the bus, and next thing you know, a police car signaled you to pull over. You would never intentionally disobey a school bus sign, and the whole thing is extremely upsetting.

What is the law? What can you do?

In Illinois, you must stop before passing a school bus from either direction when the bus is signaling a stop by either a stop sign or flashing lights. You may not drive forward until the school bus proceeds, the bus driver signals to you, or the visual signals are no longer activated. See 625 ILCS 5/11-1414.

There are exceptions to this rule: You need not stop for a school bus on the opposite side of a highway that has four or more lanes with at least two lanes of traffic in opposite directions. You also do not need to stop for a bus on either side of the road if the bus is in a paved loading zone adjacent to a controlled access highway where pedestrians are not permitted to cross.

Apart from fines, you may lose your license for three months if convicted on a first offense, and for one year on a second or later offense that occurred within five years of a prior conviction. You may, however, be able to get a restricted driving permit to travel to work.

If you have been charged with overtaking a school bus or similar offense, contact an experienced traffic law attorney immediately. Was the bus signaling a stop? What was the nature of the roadway? Even if the evidence is clear, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a less damaging offense.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)

WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN MY CHILD HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH STATUTORY RAPE IN ILLINOIS?

Your son has been dating a16-year-old girl from his high school for several months. Although you cautioned him about premarital sex, everything you said went in one ear and out the other. To make matters worse, her father found out right after your son turned 18. Now he is facing criminal charges for statutory rape and expulsion from school.

What is statutory rape? What are the penalties? What can you do?

In Illinois, statutory rape means sexual penetration or conduct with someone at least 13 and less than 17 years old if you are no more than 5 years older than your partner. It is also statutory rape if you are under age 17 and have sex with someone at least 9 but under 17 years of age. Statutory rape is not the same as forcible rape. (See 720 ILCS 5/11-1.50(b) and (c)).

Your child could also be subject to expulsion from school. If you receive a disciplinary notice from your school, contact an attorney immediately. Do not try to talk to the school yourself as this can often work against your child and may provide evidence that the state can later use to prosecute your child.

Statutory rape is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. Crazy though it may seem, your high school student could also end up on the sex offender registry, although a recent court decision indicated this punishment might be excessive.

In People v Kochevar, the defendant, then 16, met a girl, then 14, through high school track. The two had sex after he turned 18. The girl’s parents called the police. The defendant was convicted of one count of criminal sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail (all but 10 were suspended) and 24 months of probation. Further, he had to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment and aftercare, provide a DNA sample and pay various fines. Despite Illinois case law stating that the registry is not actually punishment, the Kochevar court held that the registry was disproportionately punitive to defendant. As a result, the court vacated that part of defendant’s sentence.

If your child has been charged with statutory rape or a similar crime, contact a qualified attorney immediately. An attorney can review your child’s case for his or her best possible defense. An attorney can also help you navigate through school procedures and possibly negotiate a more favorable outcome for your child’s education.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)

CAN MY FAMILY HELP ME PROVE I LIVE IN MY SCHOOL DISTRICT?

Your child’s school mailed you a letter, which came back as “undeliverable.” From that, the school inferred that you really live outside their district. They had an inspector watch your home, and now they are threatening to kick out your child and stick you with the bill.

Once you receive notice of a residency challenge, you will likely need to request a hearing. Be forewarned that a school residency hearing can often be an uphill battle. While some hearing officers are quite fair, it is the school district who pays him or her. Therefore, the hearing officer has every reason to keep the school happy, if at all possible. In order to have any hope of winning, you must overwhelm the hearing officer with evidence of your residency.

While family testimony can play a role, it is simply not enough. Once a school thinks you are lying about residency, it’s hard to convince them—or the hearing officer—otherwise. You no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, your aunt’s testimony about where you live is certainly helpful, but a hearing officer may instead assume your aunt is lying to help you.

At the school hearing, it is critical to present all the evidence in your favor. You will be limited to that evidence if you later need to appeal. While your family can certainly testify, it is more effective to bring in as many friends, neighbors and acquaintances as possible.

If you receive a residency notice from your district, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. Do not hire an attorney who is not familiar with this area of law. Most parents and even some attorneys do not understand the legal issues involved well enough to avoid trouble. A parent innocently trying to explain their situation could instead get handed a hefty tuition bill. And an attorney who doesn’t understand a parent’s burden of proof may hurt their client in the long run.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)

YOUR CHILD’S MESSY ROOM MAY HELP PROVE SCHOOL RESIDENCY

Your school district no longer believes your child is a legal resident, and so a school inspector is coming for a home visit. Embarrassed by the trash and dirty socks, you nag your child to clean up his or her room. Well, not so fast! This is the one time a messy room is actually a good thing.

Questions about your residency may come to the school’s attention from a student’s remark or a piece of returned mail. You may then get a letter notifying you that the school will dis-enroll your child unless you request a hearing. As an alternative, the school may ask to meet you, or they may request a home visit.

During a home visit, an inspector looks for evidence that you really live where you say. With much of their time lived online, teenagers don’t collect as many things as they used to. Or maybe you are the kind of parent who spoils your child with love rather than stuff. But in this regard, a tidy room or a lack of material things works against you. Schools have actually denied residency to parents on this basis. They need to see plenty of items in the closets and drawers, posters on the wall and a toothbrush in the bathroom.

If you receive a residency notice from your district, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Do not try to handle the situation yourself. Most parents do not understand the legal issues involved well enough to avoid digging themselves in deeper. For example, the fact you own property or pay property taxes in the district is not a defense.

An attorney can help present the evidence of your child’s residency in the best possible light. Even if you lose at the school hearing level, it is essential to make a complete factual record before the hearing officer because an appellate court is limited to those facts in reviewing your case.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois 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.)