You were at a party at your friend’s house, while his parents were out of town You were swigging on some beer having a blast, when someone took a picture. Next thing you know, someone emailed that picture to your high school principal, and now the school is threatening to suspend you.

How is that possible? What are your options?

The reality is that schools have a lot of leeway in disciplining someone for violating their rules, even if the student is off school grounds. If the event is somehow school sanctioned or initiated, like a parade or a club, you can be held responsible even though you weren’t at school. One important Supreme Court decision upheld the disclipline of an Alaska student for marching in a school parade with the sign “Bong Hits for Jesus.” The Supreme Court felt that since it was a school parade, the school had a valid interest in preventing the promotion of drug use. Therefore, the student did not have First Amendment rights and could be punished.

While usually there is some connection between the school and the student’s actions, that is not always the case. The party in the example above is not connected to the school in any way. However, some school officials take the position that once the picture is sent to them, the illegal drinking has come into the school and is now open to discipline. This can be true even when the person only sent the photo to get you in trouble.

The Glenbrook Powder Puff case is a locally famous example. At a “powder puff” football game, some seniors bullied junior students in several ways including kicking, beating and spraying them with animal urine. While the acts did not take place on school grounds nor at a school-sanctioned event, the district suspended the girls under its hazing policy.

If you should find yourself in one of these situations, the best thing to do is contact an attorney immediately for advice. Maybe there is some question about whether you actually committed the acts being disciplined. Or maybe the school has failed to follow its own discipline procedures. A careful review of school policy can sometimes yield a solid avenue for a defense. A skilled attorney can help you navigate through this minefield and help improve the outcome.


Like many parents, you want your child to have the best possible education, but maybe your local school district just isn’t the answer. So you try other options. Maybe you are thinking of buying property in a better school district and living there with your child part time. Maybe you have a relative, and you can send your child to live with them. Can you do this without being handed a tuition bill from the new school district?

Local school districts will send out detectives to determine if a family resides where they say they live. You might get handed a notice that your children are not residents of a district, even if you do in fact live there. Families that own property outside a school district should be particularly careful.

In Illinois, the residence of a student is defined as being the residence of the person who has legal custody. This can be a guardian as long as the guardian does not have custody solely so that the child can go to school in their district. To prove residence, a family must show two things: 1) they must have physical presence in a school district and 2) they must intend to remain there on a permanent basis.

If you actually lived in a school district on the first day of the school year, but moved out on the second day, your child could attend school through the end of that school year. But if you make a residence in a school district solely to enroll your child, you could be in trouble.

Proving physical presence and an intent to make some place your permanent home can be very fact specific. In one critical Niles Township High School District 219 case, a family lived in Chicago, but purchased a condominium in Skokie. While the father and son lived at the condo during the week, they returned on weekends to the Chicago house. The father produced voter registration, utility bills, income tax returns and car registration for the Skokie condominium. But it was not enough. Because the main base of family operations was in Chicago, the Court found against the family, saying that the family did not show that they intended to make their permanent home in the Skokie condo. All family holidays were spent in Chicago, the father and son generally ate meals there and the father had his calls forwarded from the Skokie home when he was away.

If you are served with a notice from a school district or you are thinking of purchasing a second home to take advantage of a better school system, you may want to contact me for a consultation. Contact me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160. I can help you present your case in its best light.