A 13-year-old Illinois student has been charged with a Class 4 felony count of eavesdropping after recording a conversation with his school principal on his cellphone, according to Illinois Policy, an independent public policy group that lobbies for personal freedom.
Paul Boron, a student at Manteno Middle School in Manteno, Ill., reportedly fell afoul of the state’s eavesdropping law when he met with his principal and assistant principal on Feb. 16.
Boron used his cellphone to record audio from his conversation about detentions with Principal David Conrad and his assistant principal, Nathan Short. When Boron told the men that he was recording their 10-minute discussion, which took place in the reception area of the school secretary’s office with the door open, Conrad allegedly ended the conversation and warned him that he was breaking the law.
Sure enough, Boron was charged with a single count of eavesdropping in April. Kankakee County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Laws argued that the middle-schooler “used a cellphone to surreptitiously record a private conversation between the minor and school officials without consent of all parties.”
Boron, who is visually impaired, is now awaiting his fate — and the prospect of a guilty verdict weighs heavy on his family.
“If I do go to court and get wrongfully convicted, my whole life is ruined,” he told Illinois Policy, which is pushing to have the eavesdropping law changed. “I think they’re going too far.”
“It blew my mind that they would take it that far,” mom Leah McNally added. “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.”
Recording a conversation without the consent of all parties is considered a Class 4 felony as a first offense — the same as crimes like bigamy, child abduction, hate crime, and computer fraud. With a second offense, it becomes a Class 3 felony. While sentencing is determined by the judge, it could involve jail time — or a juvenile detention center — and a fine of up to $25,000.
Boron’s case has raised questions about whether school officials should expect privacy in their interactions with students, and some have argued that having the right to record could protect minors from being subject to abuse.