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.”


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

(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.)


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


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


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