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.)

“BUT I WASN’T ON CAMPUS!”: WHEN YOU ARE DISCIPLINED AT COLLEGE FOR AN OFF-CAMPUS CRIMINAL CHARGE

You had a little too much fun one night at the pub downtown. As you struggled to drive home, you blew a stop sign and next thing you knew, you were pulled over for DUI. Or maybe you were involved in some off-campus drug sales, or you shoplifted at the local grocer’s. In any event, you now face criminal charges, but still you hope to continue your studies and get on with your life.

Then you receive an unpleasant surprise. The University is charging you with violating their student code. While it may seem that what you do off-campus should stay off campus, many schools have extended their reach to off-campus behavior. Some schools prohibit all alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes, no matter where you used them. Showing up for class under the influence may be enough to get you expelled. Some schools’ codes even contain a catch-all provision, which prohibits violating any state, federal, or local law

What can you do? First, you need to determine if your offense falls within the university’s guidelines. An experienced attorney can help navigate the language of the Student Code to determine if the school has grounds to charge you. Even if they do, perhaps the school failed to follow its own procedural guidelines. Did they give you the proper notice? Are you getting the safeguards promised in the student code? An attorney can also help evaluate the evidence against you. If the criminal charges are later dismissed or you are found not guilty, the school may lack the proof necessary to show that you actually committed the violation.

If you find yourself charged with a crime or notified of a discipline offense, contact an attorney immediately. Do not speak to anyone or discuss your situation electronically on any chat room or Facebook-type pages. Any statements you make can later be used against you or can lock you out of a possible defense in both the criminal and university cases. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.