Court supervision former Aurora elementary principal who broke mandated reporter law
A former Aurora School District 131 elementary school principal on Tuesday was sentenced to a month of court supervision for violating the state's mandated reporter law by failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a student.
Matthew Willigman, 42, of Geneva was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge of violating the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act after a bench trial in late 2019 before Kane County Judge Michael Noland.
Willigman, who resigned as principal of O'Donnell Elementary School last fall, failed to call the abuse hotline at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services after a parent told him in spring 2018 that his stepson had been touched inappropriately by a school social worker.
Noland said Tuesday he took no pleasure in sentencing Willigman, who had nine friends, family members and colleagues testify to his professionalism, dedication and passion for teaching and helping others. "This is one of the most agonizing decisions I've had to make," Noland said. "(Willigman) did not intend to do harm."
Under state law, Willigman faced up to 364 days in jail and a top fine of $2,500.
Willigman read a statement describing the effect the charges had on his career and family. He said he was notified by mail of the charges in October 2018, had his laptop and keys taken before being placed on administrative leave and "perp walked" out of the school.
"I realized I would never work in education again, regardless of the outcome," he said, noting the case he was prosecuted for not calling DCFS was ruled "unfounded."
"It's abundantly clear there's no victim in this case," Willigman said. "It's very easy for the state to say they are 'pro' child safety."
Willigman was the second East Aurora School District employee found guilty of violating the act in recent months.
In September 2019, Elizabeth Aguilar, 45, 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.
In Willigman's 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. In May 2018, someone called DCFS, triggering an investigation. Prosecutors said it would be illegal to say who made call, 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 on the recording.
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 social worker because he has not been charged with a crime.