Fired LHS band director had relationship with student, officials say

Updated 1/15/2013 10:19 PM
  • Jeffrey T. Daeschler

    Jeffrey T. Daeschler

Libertyville High School band director Jeffrey Daeschler has been fired for having an "inappropriate physical relationship" with a female student, District 128 officials announced Tuesday.

The relationship occurred while the young woman attended Libertyville High, administrators said in a letter to parents of band students. Then 18, she has since graduated, officials told the Daily Herald.

The extent of the relationship was not disclosed, but officials said it occurred in recent years and was ongoing. The letter called the allegations "substantiated" but did not elaborate.

"The weight and the validity of the evidence clearly led to the conclusion we drew and I'll have to leave it at that," Superintendent Prentiss Lea responded to a parent Tuesday night during a meeting organized by the school district specifically for them to discuss the situation. He said there was no evidence any other students were involved.

"We don't want to underestimate how devastated the kids are about what happened. They feel abandoned. They feel leaderless," said Jill Sackett, who has two children in the band program.

Lea said the allegation first came to light when a district employee received an email from a source on Nov. 24 and a 45-minute to hourlong meeting was held with the source the next day, after which the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Libertyville police were notified and an "investigative process" ensued.

"We understand ... the frustration and concern these types of situations create," he said to the gathering of about 30 parents and a few students at the Studio Theater at Libertyville High School.

Libertyville Police Chief Clint Herdegen said earlier in the day that police determined a crime hadn't been committed because of the woman's age, adding there is no police report on the matter.

Daeschler, who joined the Libertyville High staff as band director in 2010, was placed on paid administrative leave in November.

He was fired by the school board during a special meeting Monday night.

Lea told parents the district sent a strong message that it would protect students but the process had to be fair and equitable.

He added that there is "no such thing as a consensual relationship" between a staff member and student because the staff is in the position of power.

"It's a very difficult situation for kids to process. The bottom line is it's difficult for us to process," Lea told parents Tuesday night.

One parent said her daughter was in the wind ensemble and was close to Daeschler, and will now need guidance.

Lea said the school would provide any support needed and suggested parents call him or other administrators with concerns. He said his daughter plays flute in the freshman band.

"I'm with you as a parent as well as a superintendent," he said.

Earlier in the day, school board President Pat Groody called the events uncovered by the investigation "tragic." Fellow board member Ellen Mauer called the revelation "disturbing."

"I think the board took appropriate action in a swift manner," Mauer said in an interview Tuesday.

District 128 officials said they want the state board of education to revoke Daeschler's teaching certificate. His dismissal won't affect his ability to collect a pension, if he qualifies for one, officials said.

The matter became public last week when the Daily Herald published a story about Daeschler's unexplained absence from campus. At the time, district leaders declined to tell the newspaper why he had been placed on leave, citing privacy concerns.

Daeschler did not respond to interview requests last week and couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Lea and Principal Marina Scott acknowledged their previous public silence on the matter in the letter to parents, which was distributed by email after the board's vote.

"These types of allegations raise high levels of concern for you as parents, your children and us as school administrators, and (they) are often frustrating because investigative and legal requirements prevent us from being as forthcoming with you as we would like to be throughout the process," the two-page letter reads.

District 128 board member Alex Delli Paoli Jr. praised the way the administration handled the matter, calling it "very professional."

Daeschler's classes have been picked up by music instructors from Libertyville High and sister school Vernon Hills High. Additionally, officials are talking with former band director Don Shupe, who retired in 2010 and was Daeschler's predecessor, about returning to the program Feb. 4.

Before coming to Libertyville High, Daeschler had served as band director at Stagg High School in Palos Hills and at downstate Rantoul Township High School.

He also taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and conducted the university band.

Although it was posted online last week, Daeschler's biography has been removed from the Libertyville High band program's website.

• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

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