Gavin District 37: 3 teachers didn't report 'inappropriate conduct'

  • Michael Vucic

    Michael Vucic

 
 
Updated 9/25/2014 3:36 PM

The investigation into an instructor authorities say molested a student at Gavin Elementary District 37 has grown to include new questions about whether other teachers had reason to report concerns but failed to do so.

In a Sept. 19 letter updating parents about the investigation of Michael R. Vucic, Superintendent John Ahlemeyer said the district received information from authorities that three Gavin South Middle School teachers had reason at some point before the investigation to report concerns to school officials or authorities about "alleged inappropriate conduct" between Vucic and a minor, but they did not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And in a "statement to the community" released Tuesday at a school board meeting, the district said those teachers "failed in their professional responsibility." Teachers are included on a list of about three dozen or more "mandated reporters" who are required by state law to call the Illinois Child Abuse Hotline when they have reasonable cause to believe a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be abused or neglected.

One teacher has submitted a letter of resignation and the other two are on administrative leave, according to the letter to parents, which did not provide the names, positions or any details about the teachers or the circumstances.

The statement said the board and administration are "outraged" by the allegations and that district employees -- including the three teachers -- provided written confirmation they understood their responsibility to report.

School officials said district policy and privacy considerations preclude them from commenting on personnel matters or responding to specific questions.

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The Lake County sheriff's office also declined to comment as the investigation is at a "very sensitive point," Sgt. Sara Balmes said.

Vucic, 41, of Lake Forest, fled to Europe on Aug. 26, three days before being charged with five counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and five counts of criminal sexual assault. He was apprehended Sept. 15 in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and remains in custody awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Authorities said Vucic molested a female Gavin South Middle School student under the age of 13. According to authorities, the girl told her grandparents she had sexual contact with Vucic several times in 2012. The abuse was reported Aug. 25, and two more possible victims have come forward since then, officials said.

"We're shocked. We're saddened. We're horrified as to what has taken place," said Stan Pasiewicz, District 37 school board president. "At what point he'll (Vucic) be returned we don't know. What we've done is cooperate fully with the investigation."

Pasiewicz declined to answer questions about the three teachers, saying it was a personnel matter and the board had to follow certain procedures.

The school board expected a crowd at its board meeting Tuesday and was prepared to extend the time for public comment, but only two parents spoke, he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ahlemeyer's letter assures parents the Ingleside-based district "will not hesitate" to take dismissal action against any employee found to have failed to report inappropriate conduct between a teacher and a minor. The statement said the district expects to take "dismissal action" possibly as soon as Oct. 14.

Pasiewicz said the letter was sent "because we wanted to be open and honest with our parents. We wanted them to know we are doing everything we can do to keep our kids safe." He said it also was an attempt to provide information to offset rumors.

"We are upset and angry. This is devastating. I'm sure people are upset. We try to take care of our kids and community (and) to have this happen, it eats at you," he said.

In the statement, the district said social workers from District 37 and surrounding districts have been made available and the district has partnered with Gurnee-based Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center to provide additional support.

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