CAN SCHOOL OFFICIALS QUESTION MY CHILD WITHOUT A LAWYER PRESENT?

Update: As of August 23, 2019, Illinois law now requires parental notification before questioning your child at school. See our related post Can They Question My Child at School? New Rules Under Illinois Law.

Your son got caught with contraband in his school locker. The principal hauled him in for questioning without asking if your son wanted an attorney. Can they do that?

Generally, the answer is yes. While Illinois law prohibits police and other public officials from questioning your minor child without asking if he or she wants an attorney, most school officials are not considered a public official for these purposes.

Under 705 ILCS 405/5-401.5(a-5), your child’s statement is presumed inadmissible as evidence if an officer or public official takes your child’s statement during a custodial interrogation without first reading your child his or her Miranda rights. The officer must then ask: (A) Do you want to have a lawyer? and (B) Do you want to talk to me?

Unless a school official’s primary duty is protecting the public interest or enforcing the law, he or she is not required to comply with the above procedure. (See In re Jose A.). (As of August 23, 2019, the school must try to notify you and make reasonable efforts to insure you are present before questioning a child under age 18.)

If your child has been charged with a crime, contact an experienced school or juvenile law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your child’s case for its best possible defense. What if the school official who questioned your child was instead the school security officer? Was the questioning proper? Can the state prove all the elements of your child’s offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Even if your child has already admitted to the crime, an attorney can help protect his or her rights.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois school or juvenile 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 DIDN’T MEAN IT: THREATENING A SCHOOL IN ILLINOIS

Your child really is a good kid. But like many teens, he is still pushing his limits, which can result in some pretty bone-headed behavior. Now, the school is upset over something he posted on Facebook. You know he was just being silly, but the school isn’t laughing. Instead, your child faces both expulsion from school and criminal charges.

Under the typical school code of conduct, your child’s threats may be considered “Gross Misconduct.” Penalties may range from a parent conference to expulsion. In some cases, the school may still expel your child after a suspension.

Before that happens, you have a right to a hearing. The hearing may take place before a hearing officer who will then make recommendations to the school board for action. If it becomes necessary to appeal the school board’s decision, the appellate court will be limited to any evidence presented at that hearing. Therefore, obtaining competent legal advice is critical as soon as you receive notice of your child’s misconduct. Many a well-intentioned parent has damaged their child’s case because they did not thoroughly understand the legal issues involved.

At the criminal or juvenile court level, your child could be charged with disorderly conduct. Under (720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(3.5)), it is disorderly conduct to knowingly transmit or cause to be transmitted a threat of destruction of school property, or a threat of violence, death, or bodily harm directed against persons at a school. Such a violation is a Class 4 Felony punishable by one to four years in prison.

In a criminal case, the state must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case. Did your child knowingly make a threat?

An attorney can also try to negotiate a reduced punishment or more favorable plea agreement from both the school and the prosecutor.

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

WASTING A TEACHABLE MOMENT: Student charged with felony for recording principal at school

It could have been a teachable moment.

Instead, Paul Boron, a 13-year-old middle school student in Manteno, IL, is facing felony charges.

Did he slip someone a date rape drug at a party? Was he dealing drugs? Was he sexting? None of the above. His crime: recording a conversation between himself and his principal without the principal’s consent in violation of Illinois’s eavesdropping law. The Illinois law requires the consent of all parties when recording a private conversation.

The school district and the justice system could have taken this opportunity to educate Boron and other students about the law. Instead, they took an unduly heavy-handed approach.

The Manteno District Handbook prohibits students from violating criminal law, including eavesdropping. Under district guidelines, Boron could have received a disciplinary conference, detention or suspension, among other options. But the district preferred to press criminal charges.

In my practice, I have seen my share of cases where a school district’s punishment exceeds the crime. Middle and high school students do pretty foolish things. A district could use its authority to teach and correct those students rather than punish. Saddling a 13-year-old with a criminal record for a minor transgression serves no purpose and wastes taxpayer money.

If your child is facing disciplinary proceedings at school and/or criminal charges, you should contact a qualified attorney immediately. Parents often believe they can reason with a school district themselves, but many times this strategy sadly backfires. An attorney can review your child’s situation for his or her best options. Those options can include representing the child at a hearing or negotiating an exit strategy from the school.

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

Source: Manteno Teen Facing Felony Eavesdropping Charge for Recording Meeting with School Administrators.

(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.)

IF MY CHILD IS EXPELLED, CAN I ENROLL THEM IN PRIVATE SCHOOL?

The answer is probably not, although there are exceptions.

You just received notice that your child is in trouble and may be suspended or expelled. You have a right to a hearing and an attorney. Instead, you think you will simply enroll your child in private school.

But there is a catch. Private schools generally require that new students produce a certificate of good standing. If your child is expelled, they will not be in good standing, and many private schools will not consider them.

Some schools will make exceptions on a case to case basis, but this is far from guaranteed. The schools most likely to accept an expelled student tend to have a strong religious orientation. Depending on your own beliefs, this may not be an option. Furthermore, many Catholic schools will not accept expelled students.

If you do receive a notice of disciplinary action against your child, you should take the notice seriously and contact an experienced school law attorney for legal advice. While an attorney cannot guarantee success, parents without attorneys are often disregarded by the school. An attorney can review your child’s situation for their best options. For example, an attorney may help negotiate a voluntary withdrawal from the school so your child can attend private school. Or the attorney can help present your child’s situation in its best possible light at the disciplinary hearing.

If the school board expels your child, your only option may be to go to court to keep your child in school until the disciplinary matter can be further resolved. This can be prohibitively expensive and the outcome is still not guaranteed.

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.)

ILLINOIS SCHOOL EXPULSION: CAN A SCHOOL EXPEL MY CHILD FOR ANY REASON?

The answer is no.

Under Illinois law, school districts have great discretion in expelling students. But this discretion is not unlimited. A court may overturn a school district’s decision if it is arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious or oppressive.

If the district expels your child and the decision seems especially unfair, you may be able to appeal the decision in court. In reviewing the school’s actions, the court will consider: (1) the egregiousness of the student’s conduct; (2) the history or record of the student’s past conduct; (3) the likelihood that such conduct will affect the delivery of educational services to other children; (4) the severity of the punishment; and (5) the interests of the child.

Under these factors, an otherwise good student who got into a little bit of trouble may be able to return to school.

If your child is charged with a disciplinary offense, you should contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help review your child’s options. Generally, you have a very short window to request a hearing. An attorney can help lay the foundation for any appeal by presenting your child’s case in its best possible light. Note that an appellate court will not look at any evidence unless it was first presented at the original hearing.

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

See: Brown v. Plainfield Community School District 202.

(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 EXPULSION: HOW AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP

Even the smartest kids can engage in some not so swift conduct during high school. The threat of a child’s school expulsion often comes as a shock.

Even so, some parents are reluctant to spend the money to hire an attorney to assist their child. They try talking to the district themselves, perhaps they even attend the disciplinary hearing without an attorney. But in many cases, this may be a serious mistake, especially when your child’s future is at stake.

An attorney can help parents by guiding them through the disciplinary process and presenting their child’s case in the best possible light. Because you care so deeply about your child, you may not have the distance necessary to understand the school’s perspective and how to appeal to them.

Perhaps an even bigger issue isn’t knowing what to say, but knowing what not to say. Often what a client sees as a reasonable explanation, the school sees as a lame excuse. An attorney can help avoid such errors.

Even if the evidence against your child is overwhelming, an attorney can help you present a case for a reduced penalty from the school.

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.)

THE NEW ILLINOIS SCHOOL DISCIPLINE LAW

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

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.)

LOOK-ALIKE DRUGS: BIG TROUBLE AT SCHOOL AND BEYOND

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.

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.)

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

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. Regional Safe Schools Program

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

(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

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.)