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.)


Understandably, you would like your child to get the best education in the best school district, but perhaps you can’t really afford to live there. You may be tempted to lie about your child’s real home in order to enroll them in that preferred school. But depending on the circumstances and the school district, you could end up charged with a felony.

In February, 2018, Orland School District 135 pressed felony charges against a mother who provided an allegedly fraudulent lease for a home in District 135. The home was actually a retail establishment. After questioning, the mother continued to provide allegedly fake documents, leading to her arrest for felony forgery. (See Woman Charged with Forgery after Giving School False Address).

Most school districts do not carry matters quite so far. They may simply disenroll your child and bill you several thousand dollars in tuition. However, the option of pressing criminal charges for at least a Class C Misdemeanor is always possible.

If you receive notice from your child’s school questioning their residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Many parents make the mistake of trying to handle the situation themselves, but they are often unprepared for what they are walking into. By the time, they call an attorney, the facts of the case have already been established and the attorney’s hands may be tied. Furthermore, once a school believes you are lying, it is very difficult to convince them otherwise. Your words are often twisted against you.

An attorney can review your situation to see if you have a genuine claim to residency. If so, the attorney can present evidence to the school accordingly. Even if your child is not a legal resident, an attorney may be able to negotiate an agreement that allows you to leave the school district without facing criminal charges or possibly paying tuition.

If you have questions about Illinois school residency, 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.)


You really can’t stand this one student at your school. You think he is obnoxious. One day, the two of you got into a screaming match. In the heat of the moment, you called him a certain stereotypically derogatory name. The next thing you know, your college or high school has notified you that you are being charged with hate speech and might be suspended.

If the alleged hate speech occurred while committing a crime, you may even be liable for increased penalties as a hate crime. Maybe you spray-painted a name on the side of someone’s door, or you repeatedly called or texted someone, while using derogatory terms about that person’s race, religion, disability, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Under Illinois law, you can be charged with a felony, receive additional fines and still be sued in civil court.

What can you do?

First and foremost, do not make any statements to the police or the school, before consulting an attorney. Any attempt to explain or justify your actions may be used against you and jeopardize your defense. What sounds like a truthful explanation to you may only dig you in deeper.

You should also not discuss this situation with anyone either in person, on the phone or electronically. Any texting or Facebook discussions of the event could end up as evidence in a suspension hearing or in a court of law.

To fight the suspension, an experienced attorney can help review your school’s policy manual. How is your offense defined in the policy manual? Does the school distinguish between events on and off school grounds? Did the school follow its own procedures in citing you? Are the proposed sanctions against you too severe under the school’s own guidelines?

In a criminal case, the State has to prove that you are guilty of a hate crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Can the State prove that it was you who spray-painted the house or sent the text messages? Was your crime really based on the perceived or actual race, gender, religion, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the victim?

Are your words really even hate speech? One person’s idea of hate speech might be constitutionally protected expression in another context. The very definition of hate speech can be vague and elusive.

Even if the evidence against you seems overwhelming, an attorney may help you work out a reduced punishment or a plea to a lesser charge.

A qualified attorney can best help you evaluate your options and develop a strategy for your case. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.
for advice.