Suburban substitute teacher charged with sexually assaulting student

A substitute teacher who has worked for several years in school districts throughout Cook and DuPage counties is facing sexual assault charges after a 10-year-old female student at a LaGrange elementary school reported that she had been inappropriately touched by the man after class Monday, authorities said.

Joseph M. Gurzejk, 56, of Westchester was arrested Tuesday and charged the next day with predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to a news release from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's office.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office also issued a news release regarding Gurzejk's arrest.

According to the Alvarez release, Gurzejk hugged the student during class and asked her to stay afterward. After the other students had left, Gurzejk is accused of hugging the girl again and "fondling the victim under the child's clothing."

The girl disclosed the assault to a classmate during lunch and then reported it to school officials Monday after school had ended, Alvarez's office said.

Authorities said the assault took place at LaGrange Highlands Elementary School. Gurzejk had worked at the district as a substitute teacher since 2004, Dart's office said.

According to Illinois Teachers' Retirement System records, Gurzejk also has worked in Villa Park Elementary District 45, Villa Park-based Salt Creek Elementary District 48, Hinsdale Elementary District 181 and LaGrange Elementary District 102.

TRS officials said he began working as a substitute teacher in 2001. According to the agency's records, Gurzejk hasn't worked as a substitute teacher outside the district where he is accused of assaulting the student since 2009. Before that, he worked exclusively in District 102 from 2001 to 2004. In the 2005 school year, he logged 65 days with District 45, 22 days with District 48, five days with District 181 and four days with District 106.

During the 2006 school year, he worked only at District 45 for 158 days, according to TRS records. The following school year, he began splitting time between District 45 and District 106 until 2009.

Jean Hockensmith, District 45's community relations coordinator, said Gurzejk went through the standard state and federal background checks before being allowed to work as a substitute there. After the 2009 school year, Hockensmith said Gurzejk didn't respond to the annual letter sent to the district's roster of substitute teachers asking if they were interested in coming back. He hasn't worked in the district since, she said.

Since the 2010 school year, Gurzejk has worked solely at District 106 as a substitute teacher, logging a total of 269 days through last year, TRS records showed.

A Cook County judge set Gurzejk's bail amount at $750,000 today. He remains in custody, officials said. His next court date is Feb. 24.

Sheriff's investigators are asking anyone with additional information to call them at (708) 865-4896.

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