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updated: 9/18/2012 7:55 PM

District 203 toughens policy on reporting suspected abuse

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Naperville Unit District 203 officials plan to strengthen their policy on reporting potentially abused and neglected children in light of recent allegations that administrators in a neighboring district did not immediately report a possible sex abuse case.

One of those administrators -- current District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges -- was principal of West Aurora High School in 2010 when a custodian reported a suspicious encounter between band director Steve Orland and a female student. Bridges informed West Aurora Superintendent James Rydland, who did not contact authorities because the case didn't "support an allegation of abuse or neglect," District 203 officials have said.

But officials with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services last month criticized Bridges, Rydland, the school janitor and other district employees for not immediately calling the department's hotline.

Orland later was convicted of sexually assaulting two other female students.

During a District 203 board meeting Monday, Bridges said he is cooperating with the Kane County state's attorney's office investigating the matter. He also said he's committed to his work in District 203 and "providing for the safety of all our students."

"Following a matter in a neighboring school district, it's an appropriate time for our district to review its policies on mandated reporting," Bridges said.

The district's policy on abused and neglected child reporting, adopted in 2009, already states any employee "who suspects or receives knowledge that a student may be an abused or neglected child shall immediately report" the case on the DCFS hotline.

Now, the updated policy would require employees to "follow any additional directions given by" DCFS to complete the report.

It also adds language that employees can "cause a report to be made" to DCFS.

The revised policy also would require reporting on cases involving suspected abused or neglected students ages 18 to 21 with a disability.

Bridges said the changes reflect a model policy established by the Illinois Association of School Boards and is typical in most districts.

In District 203, all employees sign a form acknowledging they are mandated reporters and the district sends a letter to employees every summer to remind them of their mandated reporter status, said Bob Ross, the assistant superintendent for secondary education.

Board member Dave Weeks asked Bridges if there were protections for employees who make reports where "it turns out there's smoke, but no fire."

"There are protections for someone who makes good reports," Bridges said.

"Is that communicated to our employees?" Weeks asked.

"We'll make sure that it is," Bridges said.

The board is expected to formally adopt the revised policy Oct. 15.

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