State's attorney investigates Dist. 207's handling of ex-teacher's case
The Cook County state's attorney's office is investigating whether Maine Township High School District 207 failed to properly notify the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services about a former teacher accused of inappropriate conduct toward students.
The allegations involved Mark Krockover, a former tenured Maine East High School chemistry teacher and cheerleading coach, who was allowed to resign in August 2007 after being accused of sexual harassment by several current and former female students, according to district records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Illinois law requires school officials and other "mandated reporters" to immediately notify DCFS of suspected neglect or abuse.
Yet, DCFS never launched an investigation into abuse allegations because the agency wasn't briefed about all the particulars until recently, after Krockover's confidential personnel records were made public by media inquiry, agency spokesman David Clarkin said.
District 207 officials said they notified DCFS' statewide hotline after allegations against Krockover first surfaced in February 2007, but that the agency decided not to investigate further. The district said in a written statement that it "responded fully and accurately to all DCFS questions in 2007."
Clarkin said the agency was only notified in May 2007.
"The call that we received on May 15 was neither immediate nor did it contain vital information, which would have led to a report," Clarkin said.
"We always tell the caller that if they have any additional information to please call us back. We did not decline to investigate."
Cook County State's Attorney's Office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said the agency has "referred the information to the appropriate police agency for further investigation."
Krockover, 43, of Park Ridge, was accused of inappropriately touching female students as a teacher and cheerleading coach, including "holding them in close, tight embraces," rubbing their backs, legs and thighs, smelling their hair, caressing their arms and shoulders, and kissing students on the head, documents state.
Those actions resulted in many students quitting the cheerleading team, according to the documents.
Krockover never was charged with sexual abuse. He could not be reached for comment.
Documents state Krockover also bought bikinis for two students in March 2006, after being warned about purchasing personal gifts for students four months earlier when he bought a pair of designer jeans for a cheerleader.
District 207 administrators learned about those details in February 2007 during the course of an investigation, which ultimately led to dismissal proceedings in May, district spokesman Dave Beery said.
"There were problems with that and the resignation agreement was reached in August," Beery said. "The prospects for actual dismissal were very uncertain."
District 207 officials have declined to fully explain why it took so long for the district to take action against Krockover beyond issuing warnings and "counseling," even though documents show allegations of him engaging in inappropriate relationships and behavior with students dating back to 2001.
"Given that this matter is under review by the Cook County state's attorney, it is inappropriate for District 207 to speak in detail about the sequence of events leading to the district's decision to initiate dismissal proceedings against Mr. Krockover," Beery said in a written statement. "We are confident that any review of the Krockover matter by the state's attorney will conclude with a finding that the district acted in the best interest of students."
The district paid Krockover $60,000 as part of his resignation agreement.
Road to suspension
The State Board of Education began proceedings against Krockover in January 2008, but it was more than three years before any action was taken. In March 2011, the state board suspended Krockover's teaching license for 30 months.
State board spokeswoman Mary Fergus blamed the delay on Krockover's fight against the release of documents detailing the allegations.
"The school district's attorney, per the settlement agreement, could not turn over the terms of a confidential settlement without a subpoena, so we had to subpoena the district in April 2009," Fergus said.
Since Krockover wasn't fired, and was never charged with or convicted of criminal sexual abuse, the case was not clear-cut enough to merit automatic license revocation, Fergus said.
"All sides came to an agreement around the 30-month suspension in December 2010," she said.
Krockover is now eligible to have his teaching license reinstated, but has not applied for it, Fergus said.
Documents show Krockover frequently solicited students to discuss personal topics about dating, boyfriends and kissing despite being warned about such behavior by the school's principal. He sent emails and text messages to students at all hours of the day on topics unrelated to school work or cheerleading. He made comments on students' looks and clothing.
Krockover paid $5,800 for two students to attend cheerleading camp in Hawaii without filing district paperwork and claimed it was a charitable donation, documents show.
"It was not until just recently that we received critical details that most certainly would have led to an investigation, if all that information was provided to us in a timely manner," Clarkin said.
The agency has no authority to investigate abuse after the alleged victim turns 18 years old, he added.
Clarkin said it's now up to prosecutors to determine whether District 207 violated the "mandated reporter" law.
"We obviously want to assure that all 9 million adults in Illinois, not just mandated reporters, understand we all have a shared responsibility to protect children from child abuse," Clarkin said.