School district pressed charges when student recorded audio of meeting with middle school principal
KANKAKEE, Ill. (Nov. 15, 2018) – After making national headlines this summer, an Illinois student is free from an arduous felony charge. Lawyers representing Manteno Community Unit School District 5 dropped their case against Paul Boron today, after pursuing a felony eavesdropping charge filed against Boron when he was 13 years old.
The case alleged Boron violated the state’s controversial eavesdropping law by recording audio of a meeting with his principal while in school. Illinois has one of the nation’s most severe, yet vague eavesdropping laws.
The Illinois Policy Institute has long warned that the law’s ambiguous wording could leave harmless behavior open to harsh consequences. It funded Boron’s legal defense with assistance from online donations.
Background on Boron’s case:
- Paul Boron was called to the principal’s office of Manteno Middle School on Feb. 16, 2018.
- During the meeting, Boron said he argued with his principal and assistant principal for approximately 10 minutes, with the door open to the hallway. When he announced he was recording audio on his cellphone, the principal allegedly told Boron he was committing a felony and ended the conversation.
- Two months later, Boron was charged with a class 4 felony by the Kankakee County State’s Attorney office.
Background on Illinois’ eavesdropping law:
- In December 2014, Illinois lawmakers passed the state’s eavesdropping statute, which imposes a felony charge for recording an interaction without the consent of all parties when there is a “reasonable” expectation of privacy.
- The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a similar law in March 2014, which could mean the state’s current eavesdropping law is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.
- Federal law and a majority of states allow for one-party consent.
- This case highlights the need for Illinois lawmakers to reassess if the state’s eavesdropping law is causing more harm than good. The law could more explicitly define when someone has a “reasonable” expectation of privacy or be repealed all together.
- Illinois’ criminal justice system comes at a high cost to taxpayers, and scarce resources must be directed toward pressing public safety issues rather than frivolous charges.