On February 16, 2018, Paul Boron was called to the principal’s office at Manteno Middle School for failure to attend previously assigned detentions. On his way to meet with the principal and assistant principal, Boron began an audio recording on his cell phone.
After arguing for approximately 10 minutes with the principal and assistant principal, Boron told them he was recording their conversation. Once Boron admitted he was recording, the principal told Boron he had just committed a crime and promptly ended the meeting. The entirety of this conversation was held within the reception area of the school secretary’s office, while the door to the hallway remained open.
In April 2018, approximately two months after this meeting, Boron was charged with eavesdropping, a class 4 felony in Illinois carrying a minimum jail sentence of one year. 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-45(a). Kankakee County Assistant State’s Attorney, Mark Laws, wrote in his petition to bring the charge that Boron, “used a cell phone to surreptitiously record a private conversation between the minor and school officials without consent of all parties.” In Illinois, the law requires that all parties consent to recording a conversation. 720 ILCS 5/14-2. Federal law and a majority of other states allow for only one-party consent.
Additionally, the Manteno district handbook states that students cannot record their interactions with other students while at the school. The handbook also notes that video monitoring may occur in the public area of the school buildings. However, there is nothing in the handbook about students recording their interactions with teachers or administrators.
Furthermore, in March 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court held in People v. Clark, 2014 IL 115776, that the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute was unconstitutional as it was a violation of the first amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court noted that the statute was overbroad in its application. But, this decision was superseded by a new law in December 2014. This new law, passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, kept the all-party consent provision and introduced the new definition of “private conversation,” as “oral communication between 2 or more persons…when one or more of the parties intended the communication to be of a private nature under circumstances reasonably justifying that expectation.”
This particular case brings many questions to the forefront including, how should we define a reasonable expectation of privacy and when do we reasonably have one? And, in a public school setting, can a principal interacting with students have a reasonable expectation of privacy?