Ex-suburban teacher convicted of sex assault can keep $76,000/year pension

A former Rolling Meadows High School teacher who avoided jail time for his conviction of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy will be able to keep his pension, officials said Tuesday.

Arthur Peekel, 75, of Palatine agreed to a plea deal May 12 in which he pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a student 44 years ago in New Hampshire. As part of the deal, his 12-month jail sentence was suspended, but he must pay a $1,200 fine and register as a sex offender for the next decade.

Because the charges against Peekel were misdemeanors - not felonies - he can retain his $76,354-a-year pension, said Dave Urbanek, a spokesman for the Teachers' Retirement System, which manages retirement benefits for public school personnel in Illinois.

A state law prevents pension collection by anyone with a felony conviction related to time teaching. Peekel was hired by Northwest Suburban High School District 214 in 1986 and taught social studies at Rolling Meadows High School until he retired in 2004. He has just under 24 years of total service credit, which also includes some time working at Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211.

"When dealing with member benefits, we only deal with what is, and the records indicate he was convicted of misdemeanors," Urbanek said. "And under the law, you need a felony conviction for his pension to be withdrawn."

Peekel was an admissions officer at Phillips Exeter prep school in 1973 when prosecutors say he assaulted a prospective student. He then left New Hampshire and began an esteemed career teaching in the Northwest suburbs, even winning the 1991-92 Illinois Teacher of the Year Award.

Since his conviction, Peekel has lost many of the honors bestowed upon him during his career.

The Illinois State Board of Education plans to strip him of his Illinois Teacher of the Year Award, officials said Tuesday. Because of his case, the board is now drafting a new policy regarding revoking the award.

"Once the policy is established, ISBE will officially revoke Arthur Peekel's title," said spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. "ISBE has removed this individual from our online records of Teachers of the Year."

In recent weeks, Peekel's distinguished alumni plaque was removed from Palatine High School, he was stripped of his Milken Educator Award for outstanding educators in the country, and his membership was revoked from the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter of the KDP fraternity.

Peekel's attorney, Philip Utter, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.

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