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Rich East teacher suspended for alleged inappropriate contact with student

Rich East High School Park Forest.  |  Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Rich East High School in Park Forest. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:29AM



A male math teacher at Rich East High School in Park Forest has been put on paid leave and is facing further disciplinary action for allegedly having inappropriate contact with a student, officials said Thursday.

The teacher is the second from the school in two months to be accused of inappropriate contact with a student.

Rich Township High School District 227 said the teacher has been suspended with pay in light of the allegations. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services also has been notified.

Park Forest police said Wednesday they investigated the teacher, but no criminal activity was determined to have taken place, and no charges were filed.

It is at least the fourth case in District 227 in less than five years involving inappropriate conduct by a teacher.

“We’re not going out hiring people to come in and be inappropriate,” board President Betty Owens said. “We do all the necessary background checks. I wish I had a crystal ball, that’s all I can say.”

Officials did not say when the inappropriate contact took place, or over what period of time, and did not identify the student’s gender. A news release said potential disciplinary measures included dismissal.

School board member Cheryl Coleman said the latest situation was “unfortunate.”

“Anytime you have a disturbance like this, it’s alarming upsetting,” Coleman said. “I don’t care if it’s twice in one month or in one year.”

She suggested that DCFS investigators interview all district teachers to “make sure everyone is on the up and up.”

“If everyone is clean, everyone should feel OK with it,” Coleman said.

Board member Sheila Friday said she doesn’t believe DCFS has the time or resources to investigate every District 227 teacher. Instead, she urged the Illinois State Board of Education to endorse a policy or law that penalizes teachers who enter into personal relationships with their students — even if the students are 18.

“I’m fed up with this happening to our school district,” Friday said, adding that the news gives the district a “black eye.”

Supt. Donna Simpson Leak acknowledged an ongoing investigation but refused to elaborate. She originally refused to say whether the teacher was put on leave, then acknowledged the action in a news release.

“It’s imperative to protect my students,” Leak said. “If it can impact a child, that’s the utmost, most important thing.”

The news comes a little more than a month after the District 227 Board fired Rich East social studies teacher Rocco Rado.

A teacher at the school since 2001, Rado was fired Nov. 20 after district officials learned he had entered into a relationship with one of his former students. Rado told the student during spring break, after she turned 18 but while she still was a student, that he had feelings for her. She was in Rado’s homeroom class.

In September, Bryan Craig, a former girls basketball coach at Rich Central, was fired as a guidance counselor for penning a racy self-help book that included crude comments about women’s anatomy and how they could please men sexually, and he urged them to be promiscuous.

Craig since has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the district, claiming wrongful termination.

The district faces another lawsuit, filed in 2010, by a former student who was sexually abused by former Rich South High School teacher Sarah Tolzien. Tolzien pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse in April 2010 after having sex with a 16-year-old Matteson boy twice in November 2008. The judge placed her on probation for 1 1/2 years, and she had to register as a sex offender.



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