Lawsuits settled in Dist. 211 sex assault cases
The insurer for Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 has settled decade-old lawsuits stemming from a former student's sex crimes against five girls enrolled in special education classes at Hoffman Estates High School.
Though a confidentiality agreement keeps secret the amount and terms of the settlement, District 211 continues to deny all the lawsuits' allegations.
"After 10 years of vigorous defense by the district, a new insurance carrier elected to settle the matter," District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates said. "Consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement, the district denies any wrongdoing and the resolution results in a total dismissal of all claims against the district."
Attorney Mike Kujawa, who represented the insurance carrier -- the Secondary School Cooperative Risk Management Program -- agreed with Cates' assessment.
"It boiled down to a business decision by the insurance carrier," he said. "It's their money, it's their decision. It's not like the district is cutting checks."
The 10-year legal fight cost District 211 nothing beyond its normal insurance payments, Director of Community Relations Tom Petersen said.
The Secondary School Cooperative Risk Management Program is an insurance pool District 211 shares with Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Maine Township High School District 207 and Glenbrook High School District 225, offering all four members better coverage, Petersen said. The 2016 renewal cost for District 211's membership in the pool is $753,708, 9 percent less than the 2015 cost.
Catherine Massarelli, an attorney representing four of the families who filed the lawsuits, declined to comment because of the confidentiality agreement.
The lawsuits against the district sprang from the criminal case against now Christopher Girard, a former special education student at Hoffman Estates High School.
Girard, now 26, was convicted of sexually assaulting four mentally disabled girls at the school and groping a fifth in the fall of 2005. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and is projected to be released April 21, when he will be required to register as a sex offender.
Some of the assaults occurred even after one of the girls raised concerns about Girard's behavior, according to her family's lawsuit.
That lawsuit stated that the then 14-year-old girl, identified by the alias Jane Roe, told her parents she thought one of her friends might be pregnant -- she was not -- because she was having sex with Girard under the bleachers in the gymnasium and in a closet in the special education program's science room.
The girl's mother claimed she told her daughter's teacher on Sept. 21, 2005, and asked her not to allow her daughter to leave the cafeteria during lunch, according to the suit.
But five days later, Girard assaulted Jane and another girl under the bleachers in the gymnasium during the lunch break as another special education student kept watch, according to the lawsuit.
In a prior interview, Kujawa said that while this was an unfortunate situation, the district bore no liability. He said the law regarding special education students dictates that they be taught in the "least restrictive environment," and that the district was following that protocol by not keeping them from leaving the cafeteria when they chose.
• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.