A middle school student in Illinois decided to record his discussion with their principal on his phone, which he admitted minutes into the recording. But now because of a 10-minute worth of phone recording, the principal has charged him with felony for eavesdropping.
13-year-old Paul Boron was called to the office of Manteno Middle School principal David Conrad in February to discuss about missing detention. Boron decided to record their conversation on his phone. Also present in the meeting was assistant principal Nathan Short.
Around 10 minutes into the meeting, and some arguments later regarding the missed detention, the student admitted to the school authorities that he has been recording their conversation on his mobile phone.
The principal didn’t hide his displeasure for what Boron did. Conrad allegedly told Boron that he will be charged with felony for eavesdropping. The principal then also ended the conversation.
Two months later, the 13-year-old boy was surprised to find that what the principal uttered during the meeting was no empty threat. He had been charged, after all, with eavesdropping - a class 4 felony in Illinois - by the Kankakee County state’s attorney.
The charge made the boy worry how it will impact his future while his mother is shocked with the severity of the principal’s action.
Boron said: “If I do go to court and get wrongfully convicted, my whole life is ruined. I think they’re going too far.”
The child’s mom, Leah McNally said: “It blew my mind that they would take it that far. I want to see him be able to be happy and live up to his full potential in life, especially with the disability he has.”
Boron is legally blind in his right eye.
The Manteno Community Unit School District handbook says students shouldn’t record other students, it doesn’t specify anything about taping an interaction with teachers or administrators.
Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Laws said that Boron “used a cellphone to surreptitiously record a private conversation between the minor and school officials without consent of all parties.”
Illinois is an “all-party consent” state, where unless everyone agrees to being recorded, taping a private conversation is a felony. There have been previous convictions on the same matter.
Regardless of the existing law, isn’t it strange that a minor is being charged for a law he may not even know exists? And for something he quickly admitted to doing during the course of his conversation with his school authorities? Would it not have it been more enlightening for the principal then to explain the matter to the student, instead of threatening him, and later making good on such threat? Why go after a minor legally, a student he is mandated to guide?
Lawyer Saleem Mamdani also argued: “With authority figure, if you are engaging in official action, how are you expecting that to be private? You are relying on the fact that you had this conversation in imposing current or future discipline.”
Ours may be turning more and more into some sort of a surveillance society, yet charging eavesdropping seems to be a double-edged sword. Would we like to see people being arrested simply for recording their surroundings, for instance? And even minors at that?