Teen faces felony charge for recording conversation with school principals

A 13-year-old boy faces a felony charge in Illinois for recording a conversation with his school principals without their consent. His state has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the country.

CBS News is not revealing the boy’s name because of his age. He said he recorded the conversation when he was asked to explain why he wasn’t showing up for detention.

“I wanted to like have protection because they’re adults and it’s usually their word against mine,” he said.

“When it’s a child’s word against an adult’s word and there’s no actual evidence of what was being said, the adult is going to be taken into account as the person being truthful automatically,” said his mother, Leah McNally. “And that automatically renders the child totally voiceless. There’s nothing there to protect the children.”

According to CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, the teen has “a good defense.”

“It’s a factual defense about what is a reasonable expectation of privacy. According to his story, as has been reported, he was called to the principal’s office. He was talking with the principal and assistant principal, but in the reception area where the secretary would ordinarily sit with an open door. So there’s a question of whether you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a reception area where people could walk by,” Klieman said.

“In addition, this was a conversation about discipline. So wasn’t it logical that the boy would go home and tell his parents and that these school disciplinarians would tell his parents? So is there reasonable expectations?” she added.

The boy faces being adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent, Klieman said, “which means that he could go from being supervised or he could go to a juvenile detention center.” She also said that in certain circumstances, prospective employers and colleges could get a hold of those records.

“That to me was pretty stunning. And so there are collateral consequences,” Klieman said.

Klieman pointed to prosecutorial discretion in this case.

“When I was a young assistant, I could go to my boss, the DA, and say, do we really want to prosecute this?” Klieman said. “I mean, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We are an hour outside of Chicago. Why are we prosecuting this 13-year-old as if this were a gun crime?'”

CBS News asked the principal, assistant principal, and school superintendent for comment and have not received a response. The superintendent told the Illinois Policy Institute they cannot comment on a pending matter and are not authorized to release confidential student information.

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