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.)

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.)

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.)

‘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.)

“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.

“I DIDN’T MAKE IT UP!”: WHEN YOU ARE ACCUSED OF FABRICATION

You were dealing with a lot of personal stuff this college semester, so when the deadline for your lab assignment sprung up, you figured you’d just take the data off a website and pass it off as your own. You didn’t think the professor would find out, or that it would hurt this one time. After all, you would have done the work if not for that girlfriend or sick relative.

But the professor had more savvy than you expected. Now you are facing charges of academic dishonesty stemming from fabrication or falsification of data on an assignment. If disciplined, you may be failed from the class, suspended or worse, expelled.

What can you do? Before you give your side of the story to a seemingly sympathetic professor or administrator, you are advised to consult an attorney. What seems like a reasonable explanation to you might be just enough for an administrator to rule against you.

Whatever you do, don’t start talking about the situation with others, who might in turn become the school’s witnesses. Many Universities or Colleges strongly encourage students to expose others who seem to be violating the academic dishonesty rules, no matter how flimsy the evidence may be. You should also refrain from mentioning the charges on electronic media such as texting, email or Facebook-type pages.

If you are charged with fabrication, 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 you should attempt to bind them to it.

Is it clear that you actually fabricated your data? Maybe you really did your own work but utilized some outside information without at all intending to present the material as your own data.

Even if you already admitted that you completely made up your data, 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 a punishment for the degree of your offense.

If you are charged with fabrication, falsification or academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.