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Article posted: 3/9/2012 5:49 PM

Former West Aurora teacher gets 12 years for sex with students

By Harry Hitzeman

A former West Aurora High School band director was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to having sexual relations with two of his female students.

Stephen Orland, 42, of North Aurora, can have his sentence cut in half for good behavior and must register as a sex offender for life once released from prison.

"You have disgraced your profession. You have weakened the trust parents have in the educational system," Kane County Judge Allen Anderson said to Orland after he read a lengthy statement highlighting his teaching accomplishments but never saying "sorry" or apologizing to his victims.

Last spring, Orland was charged with 27 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse and battery and faced up to 45 years in prison, but the remaining charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of criminal sexual abuse.

Orland, who was fired from his job after his arrest, said he was proud of his 19 years as a teacher and other contributions, such as coaching girls soccer, teaching religious education and conducting the Aurora American Legion Band.

"Today is a difficult day for me and my family. I am saddened by the circumstances that bring us together," he said.

Orland also called the band room a "second home" and "safe place to be."

Orland was accused of having sex with two of his female students from October 2010 through April 11 in the band room, band storage room and in his car after a December 2010 band concert.

Afterward, Orland's defense attorney Philip Nathe called Orland a "gifted educator" and "devout family man" and insisted his client really was sorry.

"The entire situation has been unfortunate. Steve was a tremendous asset to the music community of the Fox Valley," Nathe said. "It many not have come across in his statement, but I can't express to you how bad he feels."

Dozens of Orland supporters and family members of the victims attended the hearing, but declined to comment afterward.

Months ago, Orland sought to try and disallow some 47,000 text messages between him and the victims from being allowed in court. Prosecutors also wanted to introduce evidence that Orland sent birthday cards and other written notes to the victims and had a tryst with one of the victims while in a hotel at a band performance in Peoria.

All that became a moot point once Orland pleaded guilty, a move that Assistant State's Attorney Pam Monaco was pleased with because the victims would not have to testify during trial.

"They would have (testified), absolutely. We had a strong case," Monaco said.

Mike Chapin, spokesman for West Aurora District 129, did not answer questions as to what changes in policy or procedure, if any, have been made to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

"We terminated Mr. Orland's employment with the district last August and we are pleased to see a resolution to the separate criminal process," Chapin said.

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