Cumberland County

Neoga School Board Meeting – Citizens show support for expelled student –

NEOGA, IL. (ECWd) –

During the Neoga School Board meeting held January 20, 2016, more than 100 people showed up to voice and show their support for a student who was recently expelled from school due to the school’s zero tolerance rule.

All but two or three people who spoke supported the student and objected to the school board’s action.

Kirk Allen spoke and pointed out to the board that they were committing a crime, a Class C Misdemeanor, by holding a public meeting without the Agenda being properly posted at the location of the meeting. He asked them if they should be brought up on charges, and then stated no, they shouldn’t, because it was an honest mistake, like the honest mistake made by the now-expelled student.
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One speaker, a teacher from Sullivan, IL., voiced her support of the school board’s decision by attempting to state that the board had no choice but to expel for a minimum of one year. She even quoted the Illinois School Code…but unfortunately failed to quote the entire portion of the school code referenced by herself.
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Here is the portion she referred to:

105 ILCS 5/10-22.6(d)(1): 

(d) The board may expel a student for a definite period of time not to exceed 2 calendar years, as determined on a case by case basis. A student who is determined to have brought one of the following objects to school, any school-sponsored activity or event, or any activity or event that bears a reasonable relationship to school shall be expelled for a period of not less than one year:

(1) A firearm. For the purposes of this Section, “firearm” means any gun, rifle, shotgun, weapon as defined by Section 921 of Title 18 of the United States Code, firearm as defined in Section 1.1 of the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act, or firearm as defined in Section 24-1 of the Criminal Code of 2012. …

She led the audience to believe the board had no choice but to expel this student, because the law said they must expel for between one and two years, but at a minimum one year.

What she failed to mention was the remainder of subparagraph (105 ILCS 5/22.6(d)(1), which reads:

The expulsion period under this subdivision (1) may be modified by the superintendent, and the superintendent’s determination may be modified by the board on a case-by-case basis.

This portion of the paragraph dealing with expulsion was brought to the public’s attention by a follow-on speaker later in the meeting:
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Our intent for speaking at this meeting was to make the board aware that zero tolerance does not work, that anyone can make a mistake – like they did in violating the Open Meetings Act, and also to inform the citizens who showed their support to the student that the board was not obligated by any length of time for expulsion, and they could modify their decision at any time. The board also needed to know that the public knows the expulsion decision is not mandated by law, but instead one the board made and was a discretionary decision to expel.

After the meeting, the school superintendent tried showing us that the board did not violate the Open Meetings Act, the problem is, she was quoting from the paragraph referencing meeting NOTICE, not meeting AGENDA. A Notice of this meeting did not require posting at the location of this meeting, however, an Agenda for this meeting was required to be posted at the location of the meeting and they failed to comply with that statutory requirement.

Photo of the interaction:

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Photo by Rob Bogue

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Categories: Cumberland County, feature

5 replies »

  1. In summary.

    My understanding of the facts are, the firearm was locked in a vehicle, the student was not threating violence nor had he. He was a “good” student. There was no ammunition found in the vehicle or on the student. Then add to this, this is a rural environment where hunting, for sport; or even for food, is a very common activity. Ops, a predictable event.

    I also understand, the school board and administrator’s initial position, was based on a flawed understanding of Illinois Law. They used it to defend their 1 year suspension: but perhaps discovered in this meeting, they were wrong. Illinois law does not mandate a 1 year suspension: it allows for discretion by the superintendent and the school board. In this case, the decision was completely theirs and the have the option to fix it.

    By comparison, this same school board and administration are reported to have dealt with some sort of drug situation, on school grounds and even on the same day. Drug use and “tools of the trade” found inside the school if that were the case, apparently has a far less serious consequence than a firearm locked in a vehicle on a parking lot. Those involved in this drug thing were not suspended, with no criminal charges known to have been filed by this writer.
    In balance…does not drug activity and its use on school grounds warrant equal or better consideration under these specific circumstances? Where is the justice?

    As for vehicle fatalities v.s. firearm fatalities in Illinois on a per capita basis of 100,000, research proves the numbers are relatively close. There appears to be a less than a 1% spread something like 8.3% verses 9.15% fatalities in recent data. Suffice to say, there really isn’t much difference.
    Clearly, vehicles are just as dangerous as firearms here in Illinois; but not subject to a zero tolerance policy or banning from school grounds or by equal or same treatment from the Neoga School Administration. At least, not yet. They can fix this…….

    This begs another question, why would a school board and administration (now guilty of violating OMA Laws) and hoping to gain support for an unpopular tax increase…….. create and perpetuate such an contentious situation? The boy belongs back in school where he can finish his education.

  2. Ok. You are right. People with guns shoot up schools. Not people with “forgotten agendas”. Being a misdemeanor is the only thing those two have in common.

    Mistakes are made. But only one of the two mistakes listed could have caused great bodily harm.

  3. Funny comparison of the honest mistake of the forgotten agenda. I don’t believe that any forgotten agendas have shot up a school, theater, or restaurant. Guns do that. Mistakes pertaining to life threatening situations need to be treated as dangerous. Not compared to a clerical error.

    Sorry, but your comparison was way off.

    • A concerned citizen – You appear to be from a larger city instead of a small rural community? Also, guns do not do that, people do. They were both Misdemeanors, so the comparison was real.

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