Former Bartlett student says her work with children led her to speak out against teacher
The former Bartlett High School student who first approached Elgin Area School District U-46 in September with allegations of grooming against Gary Lorber, which led to his dismissal last week, says she was moved to come forward because she now works with children and is aware of how vulnerable they can be.
"He was an excellent teacher and he was a predator, and he can be both at once and that's something that's eye-opening," she said in an interview Friday. "We tend to demonize people in our society. I know this is going to be a big loss for a lot of people whom he affected positively."
Lorber has not been charged with a crime. He is under investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He couldn't be reached for comment.
The Notice of Charges and Bill of Particulars for Termination Recommendation released by U-46 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request says that she told the district "you used your position of power to foster an unprofessional teacher student relationship with her while she was a student and then exploiting that relationship to establish an inappropriate personal relationship after she graduated."
The teacher's conduct before graduation included hugging, exchanging personal notes, sharing music CDs, buying her alcohol, giving her a book of poetry and taking her to lunch on her 17th birthday without her parents' knowledge, according to the document.
After the student graduated in 2009, Lorber consistently spoke to her over the phone, invited her to his home, provided alcohol to her though she was underage and paid for a joint trip to New York, according to the document.
In her interview with the Daily Herald, she said in retrospect, she believes she was vulnerable because "I was an extremely bright kid who came from a very broken home."
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was her current work with children that led her to reassess this chapter of her past. It made her realize how much power and authority an adult has over a child.
She said she long felt that no one would believe her, but her fear proved unfounded.
"U-46's handling of this was prompt and filled with compassion," she said, explaining that the superintendent and assistant superintendent cried during her conversation with them. The district investigated and found two other former students who had similar experiences.
She said it feels good to have her experience validated.
"I've had such an inability to trust others," she said of her struggle with the legacy of her experience.
"I guess for me it doesn't ever feel good to see stuff like this happen. But it is something that shaped me to do better for the next generation of children," she said. "I work with children and I'm really good at what I do."