Former Aurora Dist. 131 principal guilty of violating mandated reporter law

 
 
Updated 12/10/2019 5:33 PM

The former principal at O'Donnell Elementary School in Aurora was found guilty Tuesday of violating the mandated reporter law after a parent complained his stepson was abused by a social worker in spring 2018.

Matt Willigman, 42, of Geneva showed no emotion when Kane County Judge Michael Noland, who presided over a bench trial two weeks ago, announced the verdict.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Noland acknowledged it was "very difficult to discern" what the stepfather actually said to Willigman during a meeting in spring 2018 and that an investigation into the social worker did not result in criminal charges.

"This is the purpose for the statute," Noland said. "It did not relieve (Willigman) of his duty to report."

Willigman was the second school official charged in 2018 in Kane County with violating the Abuse and Neglected Child Reporting Act, a misdemeanor that carries a top sentence of 364 days in jail.

In September, Elizabeth Aguilar, 34, of Aurora, a former bilingual teacher at Bardwell Elementary School in Aurora, was convicted and later sentenced to probation and 150 hours of community service.

Willigman will be sentenced Jan. 28; his attorney, Kelley Flinn had no comment.

In Willigman's one-day trial, prosecutors argued he became aware of the allegation of abuse at a meeting in which the 9-year-old student's stepfather told him the social worker had touched the boy.

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In May 2018, someone called DCFS, triggering an investigation. Prosecutors said it would be illegal to say who made the complaint, but during the trial they repeatedly said it was not Willigman.

In an audio recording of a June 11, 2018, meeting between Willigman and an Aurora police investigator, Willigman said he assumed DCFS had been notified. He recalled the spring meeting with the stepfather, noted he tried to get more information from the boy, and met with the social worker.

"I didn't (call DCFS) at the time because I didn't have anything to go on and I didn't want to start throwing the guy's name around," Willigman told police.

District 131 placed the social worker on administrative leave in 2018 while DCFS conducted its investigation. DCFS concluded the report was "unfounded" and the social worker is back working at O'Donnell Elementary, according to the district. The Daily Herald is not naming the worker because he was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

District spokesman Tom Jackson said Willigman resigned in early September 2019.

"The safety and security of our schools and students is always our top priority," read part of an email by Jackson. "We will continue to reinforce our responsibilities through annual staff training on recognizing signs of abuse and neglect and reinforcing for every member of the District 131 family the importance of reporting any suspicions of child abuse or neglect. As a reminder to the District 131 community, any suspected child abuse or neglect can be reported to DCFS at 1-800-25-ABUSE, or to the Aurora Police Department via 911 or (630) 256-5000."

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