West Aurora adding legal help in sex abuse probe
West Aurora Unit District 129 is getting extra legal help to assist in the representation of three district officials involved in a Kane County state's attorney's office investigation that they may not have reported a possible sex abuse case as fast as they could have.
Attorneys Patrick Collins and Gary Johnson will represent the three employees: Superintendent James Rydland, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Ed Howerton and former Assistant Principal Mike Slou, who is now a teacher.
That list doesn't include former West Aurora Principal Dan Bridges -- now superintendent of Naperville Unit District 203 -- who said Tuesday he would cooperate with any investigation into the matter.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services criticized school district administrators last week for not immediately reporting allegations of an encounter between band director Steve Orland and a female student in 2010. They said West Aurora High School officials should have immediately called the department's hotline once the allegations surfaced from a school janitor -- whom DCFS said also should have called.
But the district did an investigation of its own, and Rydland, on the advice of counsel, did not contact authorities because "the facts reported would not support an allegation of abuse or neglect," according to a school district statement released last week.
On Wednesday, the district released a statement from school board President Neal Ormond that says the board has directed "an immediate review of the allegations concerning the failure to report."
He also said the board "continues to cooperate fully with DCFS and the state's attorney's office in their review of this matter."
About 10 months after the alleged encounter took place, Orland pleaded guilty to abusing two other high school girls, and was sentenced in March to 12 years in prison.
"While this former teacher was later found in 2011 to have engaged in criminal conduct for which he was terminated, the current DCFS failure to report allegations pertain to a 2010 incident," Ormond said.
At a board meeting Tuesday, board members discussed a 32-point draft safety action plan that included ongoing initiatives such as: revising the district's policy on child abuse and neglect; emphasizing school employees' "responsibility to report immediately," and investigating "additional means and vehicles to communicate (the) DCFS abuse hotline number."
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