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updated: 9/21/2012 7:32 PM

Lawsuit: Dist. 129 officials ignored concerns about ex-band director

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  • Stephen Orland

      Stephen Orland

 
 

One of two students who were sexually abused by a former Aurora Unit District 129 band teacher has sued the district, the teacher and Superintendent James Rydland.

The student, identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, argues the school officials didn't report suspected abuse to state authorities and ultimately didn't do enough to protect her from Stephen Orland, who is serving a 12-year prison term.

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Orland, 43, of North Aurora, pleaded guilty earlier this year to aggravated criminal sexual abuse and has been fired from the district.

According to the lawsuit, filed in Kane County, school officials turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior by Orland.

The suit argues that Orland "commonly engaged in acts of sexual innuendo and suggestion and other forms of inappropriate sexual conduct and grooming, including, but not limited to, the following: hugging female students from behind, kissing female students on the forehead; giving female students full body embraces; and placing his arm and hand around the waists of female students."

The suit, which demands a jury trial and seeks more than $50,000 damages, also argues that school employees spoke to each other about Orland's conduct but never reported it to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The suit also cites a July 6, 2010, incident in which a janitor heard "giggling and other sounds" coming from a secluded band storage room, and found Orland and a different female student in there hugging before Orland ran away.

The suit accuses then Aurora West Principal Dan Bridges and Superintendent James Rydland of failing to alert officials at the Department of Children and Family Services, thus violating the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Bridges was named superintendent of Naperville Unit District 203 in August.

Rydland was unavailable Friday and district spokesman Mike Chapin said: "The school district has not received a copy of the complaint. We cannot comment on it until we get a chance to review it."

A message left at Bridges's office was not immediately returned.

DCFS officials have said District 129 officials should have reported Orland's conduct sooner.

Earlier this month, school board President Neal Ormond issued a statement on the district's website saying officials were cooperating with DCFS and the Kane County state's attorney's office and reviewing the matter.

"As we work through this, we trust that the community understands that 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," read part of Ormand's statement. "Please know that the board will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure that the district is providing a safe and healthy learning environment for its students. While there are legal constraints with respect to sharing information concerning students and employees, we will continue to keep the community apprised of our efforts to the best of our ability."

The lawsuit also argues that Orland began a relationship with the plaintiff, then a 16-year-old junior, in late 2010 or early 2011 and the non-action from the July 2010 incident gave him license to ratchet up the abuse and "engage in sexual activities, on school grounds, almost on a daily basis," including sending the teen texts, placing cards and notes in her locker, and writing bogus hall passes to "facilitate liaisons with her."

Craig Brown, attorney for the teen, could not be reached for comment.

The two sides are due in court on Dec. 6.

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