Aurora teacher charged with failing to report student abuse to state

A teacher at East Aurora District 131's Bardwell Elementary School has been charged with violating the state's Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

Elizabeth Aguilar, 42, of Aurora, did not immediately report a teacher's alleged sexual abuse after being told of it in early March 2018, even though she was a mandated reporter under law, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors argue in charging documents that Aguilar had reasonable cause in early March 2018 to believe a child known to her in her professional capacity was abused and failed to report it to DCFS.

Mandated reporters, which also include doctors, nurses, church workers and school employees, are required by law to immediately call DCFS at (800) 25-ABUSE, or (800) 252-2873 if they reasonably believe a child may have been abused.

Juan Avendano, 62, of the 1300 block of South Glen Circle, Aurora, was arrested in March 2018 and charged with 18 felonies, including six counts of predatory criminal sexual assault. He is accused of sexually abusing and sexually assaulting two students from April 2014 through March 2018 as a teacher at Bardwell.

Aguilar's case is still pending, but her arrest provided a bit of vindication to attorney Stephanie White, who has been retained by one of Avendano's alleged victims.

In a lawsuit filed in early October, White argues that one girl's mother told Bardwell Principal Twila Garza and other district officials back in September 2014 of Avendano's actions but the district did nothing to remove Avendano from access to students.

"This is exactly the purpose of the mandated reporting law," said White, adding she believes more District 131 officials beyond Aguilar were told of abuse and didn't contact DCFS.

"I wish we were seeing more of this trend where they were actually prosecuting mandated reporters," White said. "It's long overdue and refreshing to hear."

The suit is due in court on Dec. 18 and seeks unspecified damages from District 131, Avendano and others. Avendano is currently free on bond and is next due in court on Dec. 6 on the sex assault and abuse charges. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

District 131 spokesman Tom Jackson declined to comment.

Aguilar is next due in court on Oct. 31 and if convicted, she faces a punishment ranging from probation to up to 364 days in jail.

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