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updated: 12/7/2012 6:35 AM

State's attorney investigating Dist. 129 in abuse reporting case

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  • Stephen Orland

      Stephen Orland

 
 

The Kane County State's Attorney's Office is investigating whether any criminal conduct occurred by West Aurora District 129 officials after they were told a former band director was found alone with a girl in a secluded band storage room in summer 2010, according to court documents.

Stephen Orland of North Aurora, eventually pleaded guilty to having sexual relationships with two of his female students and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in March.

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One of the victims sued District 129, Orland, Superintendent James Rydland and former West Aurora Principal Dan Bridges, arguing the district didn't do enough to protect her from Orland's inappropriate behavior, and that the Rydland and Bridges failed to contact the Department of Children and Family Services and, thus, violated the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

The teen, referred to in court papers as Jane Doe, seeks damages of more than $50,000.

The parties appeared in court Thursday morning and are due back before Kane County Judge F. Keith Brown Jan. 10, 2013.

District 129 defense attorneys want the lawsuit to be put on hold until the investigation is done, documents show.

"A 2011 criminal investigation conducted by the Kane County state's attorney resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Orland, the former District 129 employee who committed the alleged acts against the plaintiff. A second criminal investigation relating to the same alleged acts was recently opened by the state's attorney and remains ongoing. District 129 has been informed that subpoenas have been issued. Beyond that, District 129 has no access to information regarding the investigation, and will not until the investigation is completed," wrote the school district's lead defense attorney, Charles LeMoine, in court papers.

The state's attorney's office had no comment Thursday.

Neither Rydland nor Bridges, who is now superintendent at Naperville School District 203, have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

Steven Puiszis, an attorney representing Bridges, said he didn't know if his client had been subpoenaed and even if he was, it didn't necessarily mean Bridges was the subject of any investigation.

"I don't know who they are investigating," Puiszis said.

A message left with Nicholas Kourvetaris, an attorney representing Rydland, was not returned.

This past fall, officials from DCFS said District 29 failed to comply with state reporting laws by not alerting state authorities to the July 2010 incident. DCFS officials also said a janitor on duty at the time was required to report the incident to the state as well.

The victim's lawsuit accuses school officials of turning a blind eye to Orland's behavior with students and not reporting the July 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 lawsuit argues the district's non-action gave Orland license to ratchet up his relationship with the plaintiff, then a 16-year-old junior, by "engaging in sexual activities, on school grounds, almost on a daily basis," including sending the teen text messages, placing cards and notes in her locker and writing hall passes to "facilitate liaisons with her."

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