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Rich East teacher fired; had relationship with former student, police say

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Updated: November 21, 2012 7:43PM



After years of enjoying a teacher-student relationship that included exchanging CDs and sharing personal information, Rich East social studies teacher Rocco Rado went out for coffee with an 18-year-old female pupil in April, police said.

When they talked, the Park Forest teen admitted to Rado that she had a crush on him, according to police. He also liked her, the teen told police, but he was married and was her teacher so they couldn’t possibly be together.

That all changed in May, when Rado told the teen his wife left him and the teen graduated from the Park Forest school, according to a police report. The following month, they were dating, the teen told police.

Now Rado, a teacher at the school since 2001, is facing the consequences of their relationship. He was fired Tuesday after a 5-to-0 vote by the Rich Township High School District 227 Board, following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct, according to a news release from the district.

“We have to stop this form of preying on youth,” board member Sheila Friday said, explaining the firing. “It doesn’t matter she’s now an adult and she’s no longer a student.”

Rado, of Matteson, is not facing criminal charges because there is no evidence the relationship began before the student’s 18th birthday, Park Forest police said.

Rado could not be reached for comment.

Rado had been on paid leave since Sept. 18 during the investigation, the district said. He had a Nov. 15 hearing with Supt. Donna Leak during which he was informed of the allegations and evidence and given an opportunity to respond, the district said.

The school board received a report on the investigation from attorneys at Tuesday night’s meeting and voted to fire Rado, who was tenured, effectively immediately.

In a statement, the board said, in part, “our first priority and responsibility has been to ensure the safety and protection of our students. Mr. Rado’s conduct in this matter fell far short of those expectations of professionalism and sound judgment.”

According to police, the school was notified about the teacher-student relationship in September, when another student came forward. The student said she knew Rado and the teen had exchanged CDs at school and talked about music often.

The teen told police that she turned 18 in February, and started dating Rado in June, although Rado attended her graduation party in May. Rado was introduced to people at the party as the teen’s friend, not her boyfriend, police said. She denied having any kind of relationship with him until after May.

Police said the teen told them Rado was her history teacher during her sophomore and junior years at high school as well as her teacher for her advisory period her senior year.

The teen told police she always had a good student-teacher relationship with Rado, meaning “they talked a lot about school and their personal lives.”

Police also contacted the teen’s father, who said he does not approve of their relationship. The father claimed he tried to talk to her about it, but she said she could date whomever she wants because she is 18.

The father told police he suspected something weird was going on because his daughter stayed after school a lot, and when he would pick her up, Rado would usually walk out with her.

Friday said Rado had not previously been disciplined. She also said she was “embarrassed” by the latest in a series of incidents involving inappropriate behavior by district employees.

“There are so many good things in our school district,” Friday said. “We can’t get that message out when things like this are happening.”

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 urged them to be promiscuous.

Craig has since 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 11/2 years, and she had to register as a sex offender.



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