Can Schools Legally Record Teachers in Illinois?

Are you a teacher who is concerned about your school recording you without your permission? The issue of recording teachers came up in 2009 when the Board of Education for Freeport School District No. 145 recorded teachers in two separate special education classrooms. The school recorded the teachers in response to a parent bringing forth an allegation of student abuse. The teachers sued the school district in Denise Plock et al. v. Board of Education of Freeport School District No. 145 (2009).

The following will discuss the ruling in the Denise case and address whether schools legally can record teachers in Illinois. This analysis is based on general legal principles, but every case is unique. If you have a specific situation for which you need some legal guidance, contact an experienced Illinois attorney.

The Illinois Eavesdropping Act, 720 ILCS 5/14-2(a)(1) generally prohibits a business, school or individual from conducting an audio recording of another person without the consent of all parties. The teachers argued that this Act prohibited their school from recording them. The federal district court of Illinois ruled that “any expectations of privacy concerning communications taking place in special education classrooms such as those subject to the proposed audio monitoring, in this case, are inherently unreasonable and beyond the protection of the Fourth Amendment.”

The court ruled that the teachers did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment when it comes to audio recording in the classroom. The Court remanded the case back to Illinois state court and charged the state court with determining whether the audio taping violated the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. The Illinois state court found that the Illinois Eavesdropping Act does not offer an exception for teachers; therefore the school violated the Act when they recorded the teachers.

The school district appealed this decision. Subsequently, the Illinois appellate court stated that “audio taping in the special-education classrooms at issue is not the only means of protecting the teachers and students. As is evident from the facts in this particular case, the classrooms are videotaped, teacher aides are generally present in the classrooms, and teachers are subject to periodic evaluation.” The appellate court also ruled that the teachers did not give implied consent to be recorded.

It is important for teachers to understand the holding in this case because it is still governing law in the matter of recording teachers. In short, under current Illinois case law, schools are prohibited from recording teachers in their classrooms per the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. This means that if a school district has recorded you, you may be able to file a lawsuit against it.

Has the school at which you teach unlawfully recorded you? Contact our Schaumburg, Illinois attorneys by filling out our online form. Our lawyers represent clients throughout Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, and Kane Counties, and we are available to tell you more about your legal options.

(image courtesy of Kane Reinholdtsen)

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