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Lake Forest Parents Want Supt. Gone After ‘Sexting’ Principal Scandal

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Lake Forest School District 67 Supt. Harry Griffith (Credit: CBS)

Lake Forest School District 67 Supt. Harry Griffith (Credit: CBS)

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – A firestorm was raging in the normally sedate suburb of Lake Forest on Monday, as parents and state authorities demanded to know how a principal who sent lewd messages to a college intern stayed on the job for two more years.

Deer Path Middle School Principal John Steinert resigned on Sunday, after the nature of the sexually explicit messages came to light last week.

Steinert pleaded guilty to harassing a 22-year-old college student in 2009, but parents of Deer Path Middle school students did not find out about that until last week.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the jobs of more school administrators could be on the line because of the “sexting” scandal.

A spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education confirmed Monday that it will begin a review of how this matter was investigated by Lake Forest School District 67 officials from the beginning.

That will likely be a top concern at a community meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday.

District 67 Superintendent Harry Griffith has rejected calls for his resignation, saying if he knew then what he knows now, he would have handled it differently.

Griffith said he only reprimanded Steinert after his 2009 arrest – rather than firing him – because he only saw a heavily redacted version of the Gurnee police report detailing Steinert’s explicit cell phone harassment of a 22-year-old intern.

“That was an error that we made in not getting the right information at that time. We thought we had the right information in 2009,” he said.

Angry parents said that’s inexcusable and they still want to know why Griffith and other school board members failed to follow up with police after Steinert’s guilty plea.

Gurnee Police Cmdr. Jay Patrick said police never heard from the school district after Steinert pleaded guilty.

Patrick said it would have been a simple request for the district to get access to more detailed information that would have made clear the sexually explicit nature of the unwanted messages to the intern.

“My detectives are telling me that, had they requested it or talked to them, they probably would have verbally given him (Griffith) the information that he needed,” Patrick said.

That failure to follow-through is now why dozens have been calling for Griffith’s resignation, seven months before his scheduled retirement.

“I think the superintendant needs to go, too. I think that was terrible inaction and I’ve seen him do things like this before,” Deer Path parent Lynn Johnson Pesek said.

The community meeting was only one of two meetings related to this matter scheduled for Monday.

Lake Forest officials said a Deer Path student resource police officer also has been removed from the school, pending an investigation into alleged inappropriate comments he made to the same intern in 2009.

As part of the investigation into the sexting case, the young woman told police the officer “began asking her questions about what kinds of guys she liked, pornography and sex toys,” according to a police report. “She said she became uncomfortable and changed the subject.”

“The city of Lake Forest and the police department take any allegations of misconduct very seriously,” Mayor James Cowhey said during a city council meeting Monday night.

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