Lawsuit claims 'excessive' questioning led to Naperville North student's death
The parents of a Naperville North High School student who died by suicide after being questioned by school officials and a police officer about potential wrongdoing have sued the three people involved and their employers, Naperville Unit District 203 and the city of Naperville, seeking $5 million in damages.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in DuPage County court on behalf of Douglas and Maureen Walgren of Naperville claims two deans at Naperville North and a police officer improperly handled the detention and questioning of their son, 16-year-old Corey Walgren.
The suit claims the administrators and officer violated Corey's constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable conditions of detention and to be given due process of law.
And it claims their actions to "falsely threaten and coerce" Corey to answer questions about an allegation of criminal wrongdoing led to his death by making him "so bereft of reason as to cause him to take his own life."
District 203 spokeswoman Michelle Fregoso in a statement Wednesday said Corey's death has been difficult and saddening to all those involved, and the school continues to offer grief counseling to students who need it. She said the school aims to provide fairness, discretion and well-being in all matters involving students, and when the situation with Corey began, officials "worked to ensure a thorough and fair review of the facts."
But after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday, Fregoso said the district couldn't comment further.
The lawsuit filed by attorney Terry Ekl claims Corey Walgren was a junior honor roll student at Naperville North with no disciplinary history when he was called to the dean's office Jan. 11. There, the suit says, deans James Konrad and Stephen Madden and Naperville police officer Brett Heun began to question him without reading him his rights to have a lawyer and to remain silent and without immediately calling his parents.
"With the specific intent to cause Corey extreme and excessive psychological distress and fear," the lawsuit claims the deans and the officer "falsely" threatened that they knew he was in possession of child pornography and would need to register as a sex offender.
As the questioning continued, the lawsuit says the officials eventually reached Corey's mother, Maureen Walgren, by phone and promised her they would keep her son until she arrived.
The lawsuit says the deans and the officer ordered Corey to remain in the dean's office, but left him alone, and at some point, he "escaped the suite and exited the school."
Corey then "walked up to and off of the fifth level of a parking structure in downtown Naperville," the lawsuit says, and fell to his death.
The lawsuit says no child pornography was found on Corey's phone.
Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said the city has not been served with a lawsuit. In a statement, city Attorney Mike DiSanto called the Walgren family's situation tragic and said the police department and the city remain committed to serving students and families throughout the community.
"Given that this matter involves minors, we ask the community to show patience and respect throughout the legal process," DiSanto said. "We are confident the school resource officer followed proper policies and procedures."
The lawsuit aims to hold accountable the people involved, Ekl said in a statement, and to bring justice for the Walgren family.