Family of student who killed himself considering options after suit against District 203 tossed
Attorneys for a Naperville Unit District 203 student who killed himself after staff members warned him he may have to register as a sex offender are considering their options after a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit against the district and the city of Naperville.
In her ruling late last week, U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood called the interrogation tactics used in January 2017 by Naperville North High School deans and Naperville police "harsh and aggressive," but also "ordinary" when they interviewed 16-year-old Corey Walgren.
They told the teen that any video may constitute child pornography when they confronted him about allegations he recorded a sexual encounter with a classmate without her knowledge.
Hours later, Walgren walked to the top of a five-story parking deck in downtown Naperville and jumped.
His parents, Maureen and Doug Walgren, sued the city, the school district and individual school officials later in 2017, accusing them of unnecessarily traumatizing their son and of violating his rights by not calling his parents first.
Wood said there's no evidence Corey broke the law with the video, in which no images were visible. Corey played the audio for several friends but never texted or emailed it.
"Faced with the implied threat of such consequences, it is perhaps unsurprising that a previously well-adjusted teenager's emotional state could deteriorate to such a point that he would contemplate taking his life," she wrote.
Wood said the parents and their lawyers hadn't cleared the threshold required to prove school officials violated Corey's rights. She did leave the door open for the lawsuit to be reworked and refiled.
The family's attorney, Terry Ekl, said Wednesday he respects but firmly disagrees with Wood's ruling.
"We're analyzing the decision and then we'll decide whether to file an amended complaint or appeal," Ekl said. "Either way, this case is a long way from over."
Legally, Ekl said, they must decide by Feb. 15 whether to file the amended complaint. If that is rejected, they will seek to appeal in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Wood described Corey as "an honor-roll student with no disciplinary record or history of violence or self-harm." She wrote that his parents hadn't demonstrated that school officials should have gleaned Walgren might have been contemplating suicide.
The lawsuit also alleged school officials violated Illinois law by questioning Corey before his mom was called and headed toward the school. But Wood said "there is nothing therein (in Illinois statutes) that prohibits (an) officer from questioning (a) minor before (a) parent's arrival."
In a written statement, the district said only that "the staff and community of Naperville 203 remain saddened by the death of our student and extend heartfelt sympathy to all those affected by this tragedy."
After meeting school officials, Corey was told to wait at a student-services office until his mother arrived. He slipped out of the office undetected and walked to a parking deck ramp less than a mile away. He jumped around 2:40 p.m. and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital about 45 minutes later.
City officials, in a written statement released Wednesday, called the situation tragic while announcing they too had been dismissed from the suit.
"Last week, the court issued a ruling dismissing all counts of the complaint," Naperville City Attorney Mike DiSanto wrote. "While we are pleased with the decision, there are no winners in this tragic matter. The city's sympathies remain with the Walgrens and everyone involved. We continue to have confidence in our police department and the service they provide. The city and police department remain committed to supporting and serving the students and families of Naperville."
• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.