13-Year-Old Charged with Felony for Recording Conversation with School Principal

"If I do go to court and get wrongfully convicted, my whole life is ruined."


Peter Cripps / Dreamstime

A 13-year-old hauled into the principal's office for not serving his detention may end up with the biggest detention of all: a felony conviction. That's because the kid recorded the conversation on his phone.

The incident took place last February at Manteno Middle School, which is about an hour outside of Chicago. Young Paul Boron was arguing with Principal David Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short.

About ten minutes into the meeting, which was held with the door open, Boron told the men he was recording it. At that point, the principal told Boron he was committing a felony and ended the conversation. But then, according to the Illinois Policy Institute:

Two months later, in April, Boron was charged with one count of eavesdropping – a class 4 felony in Illinois.

"If I do go to court and get wrongfully convicted, my whole life is ruined," said Boron, who lives with his mother and four siblings…"I think they're going too far."

…. Members of the Manteno Community Unit School District No. 5 board, Conrad and Short have not responded to requests for comment on the incident.

Unfortunately for Boron, there is a law against recording people without their consent in Illinois. There's even a rule against it in the student handbook. But the handbook also says that it is fine for the school to have video cameras monitoring the public areas of the building. In other words, it's fine to keep the kids under constant surveillance, just not the administrators.

Illinois law is tough on citizens who "eavesdrop." For example, the Policy Center reports, "Michael Allison was charged with a felony for recording his own court hearing after the court did not provide a court reporter"—a case crazy enough to bring Orwell storming back from the grave.

At one point, the state's law saying all parties who are being recorded must consent was struck down. But a new eavesdropping law popped right back up with a carve-out for citizens recording police encounters.

All of which means Boron's middle school misbehavior could end up on his permanent record. Sometimes the law is neglectful of liberty, and no friend to tech savy 13-year-olds. It would be a terrible tragedy if Boron was forced into the criminal justice system for such a silly infraction.

Correction: The Illinois Policy Institute was initially mis-identified in this post.