Your son or daughter was suffering from a bad case of senioritis. So they joined in on a prank at school. Their prank did cause some trouble and expense. And you certainly believe they should accept responsibility. But still, you think the school is going overboard in barring your student from attending graduation after they had worked so hard to get there, just because of this one minor incident.

What can you do?

If you have just received notice of a discipline offense, then you are best advised to contact an attorney to guide you through the discipline procedure and help present your child’s case in the best possible light. An attorney can work with you to insure that the school follows its own guidelines procedurally and in how the school both defines and punishes the offense. Can the school prove your child committed the offense?

Avoid making statements to the school until you have consulted an attorney. While you may think your child’s explanation for his behavior is perfectly understandable, the school may not agree, and you may end up with a greater penalty taken against your child. Even worse, depending on the nature of the offense, your child may also be subject to criminal prosecution. Any statements you or your child makes to the school could end up as police evidence.

Even if you have already been through the discipline procedure, it may not be too late. Schools often have a lot of discretion about the penalties they impose. Depending on the offense, a skillful attorney may be able to negotiate with the school into allowing your student to attend graduation, or even the prom.

No matter where you are in the procedure, you and your student are best advised not to discuss this situation with anyone either in person, on the phone or electronically. Any Facebook discussions of the event could end up as evidence against your child.

It is imperative that you explore your options with a qualified attorney. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.


There are few student vices that a college or university professor detests more than plagiarism. Plagiarism can be loosely defined as passing off someone else’s work as your own without proper attribution. The work may be that of another student or an author off the web. Some schools even prohibit using your own work that you may have completed for another course without the current instructor’s consent. Some schools consider paraphrasing a form of plagiarism.

To catch students who plagiarize, teachers can submit student papers to websites such as plagiarism.com to find sentence by sentence matches from the internet.
Once a student is caught, the penalties may be severe. You may be failed from the class or suspended. Some schools have a zero tolerance policy that could lead to expulsion.

What can you do? If you are charged with plagiarism, there is still hope. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best avenue for a defense on procedural or substantive grounds. Did the school follow its own student policy manual procedures when charging you with the offense? The policy manual is like a contract between you and the school, and the school is largely bound by it.

Is it clear that what you submitted actually constituted plagiarism? The definition of plagiarism can be a slippery slope. At what point does a paraphrase become an unauthorized use of someone else’s work? If you use one sentence off the web, but cite the source elsewhere in the paper, have you plagiarized?

Even if you admit you lifted the majority of your paper off the web, you may still qualify for a less severe penalty. Perhaps you are generally of good character, but were under exceptional stress. Perhaps expulsion is too extreme for a minor degree of plagiarism.

If you are charged with plagiarism or academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. By attempting to explain yourself to the school, you may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense by digging yourself into a hole. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com. for advice.


Graduation is just days away, and you have a bad case of senioritis. You and your buddies were ready for summer three months ago. But before you leave school, you thought it would be hilarious to play one final joke on the school. You think of it as “your legacy.” You’d just love to see the look on the principal’s face when she comes in Monday morning and finds the school’s mascot has been torched. Or maybe you and your friends decided to graffiti a few choice thoughts about school on the new building addition.

But you weren’t expecting to get caught.

Now, you and your friends face suspension–right before graduation. In addition, you’ve been slapped with criminal damage to property charges. And your parents are none too happy about the prospect of a civil suit against them to pay for the damage you caused.

What can you do?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is essential that you contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can evaluate your defense. Maybe the school failed to follow correct procedure before they expelled you. Maybe you didn’t take part in the prank and just happened to be there. Maybe the school lacks sufficient evidence to show you did anything wrong. Even if they have you on video lighting the fire or spraying the graffiti, an experienced attorney might be able to work out a deal with the school. For example, maybe the school would let you graduate if you paid back the damage.

Because the standard of proof in a criminal case is higher than in a school proceeding, an attorney may help you avoid a criminal record. Depending on your role, you might be eligible for a reduced penalty, or you might be able to avoid a criminal conviction.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.