Per Austin Berg of The Times, a 13 year old boy named Paul Boron is being charged with Felony Eavesdropping of his school principal at Manteno Middle School. According to Berg, “On Feb. 16, 2018, Boron was called to the principal’s office at Manteno Middle School after failing to attend a number of detentions. Before meeting Principal David Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short, he began recording audio on his cellphone. Boron said he argued with Conrad and Short for approximately 10 minutes in the reception area of the school secretary’s office, with the door open to the hallway. When Boron told Conrad and Short he was recording, Conrad told Boron he was committing a felony and promptly ended the conversation, Boron says.”
Boron’s action is absurdly a felony because Illinois is an all party consent state when it comes to recording people. This means that a person can’t record another person/persons without all parties consent or they’re committing a felony. The Illinois Supreme Court rightly ruled that this was a violation of First Amendment rights in 2014, but Berg notes that during a legislative session in December of that same year the Illinois General Assembly slipped in the vague clause that a person can’t be recorded if they have a reasonable right to privacy. But as Berg also notes, it is extremely hard to know what that line is making it ripe for being taken advantage of by overzealous DA’s and police departments. Because what all party consent laws are for is clear: They are meant to protect people in power from accountability to the general public. There is no reason people in power should be afraid of being recorded especially in interactions with the public, unless they’re saying stuff that can imply they abuse their power which many many people in authority positions clearly do. It is also insultingly hypocritical that the government/police love to constantly try and extend their surveillance powers over the public, but when the public wants to hold people in power accountable by recording them then all of a sudden privacy becomes the most important issue ever. People in positions of authority can always dish it out, but they can never take it. And it is not hypocritical to support keeping people in power accountable while also being against government/police surveillance. While the overlapping issue of privacy shows the government’s double standards, there is also a fundamental difference between recording people to hold them accountable to the public rather than surveilling people to control them and extend power over them. One method is fundamentally democratic, the other is oppressive. I sincerely hope the prosecution gets a clue in this case and stops trying to severely damage Paul’s future. If a felony conviction gets on his record and he’s forced into the Juvenile justice system, that could be devastating. But hoping for logic and compassion from people in positions of power has gotten harder and harder these days. Paul should be free and with his family, along with every person who has suffered from Eavesdropping laws. People in positions of power should stop being cowards and open themselves up to being recorded by the Illinois public, like a decent amount of other states. If they’re too scared that they’ll come off as corrupt, well then the recording will be fulfilling its purpose.