Reporting Dave Savini
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AURORA, Ill. (CBS) – Officials at West Aurora High School, already under fire for not stopping a sexual predator, now are being accused of trying to cover up the whole mess.
Band teacher Stephen Orland – caught with a student in 2010 – was allowed to remain in the classroom until he was caught again a year later, with two other girls.
CBS 2′s Dave Savini has newly obtained records which are raising more questions about the actions of district officials.
John Wilson, a former police officer, said his daughter and her West Aurora High School classmates were put in harm’s way for nearly a year, when school officials failed to take action against Orland, who is now a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges involving two students.
“I’m outraged. I’m disgusted with it,” Wilson said. “These people need to be held accountable. For this administration to allow this predator to be involved in all of our lives, it is just horrifying.”
Wilson said records, newly obtained by CBS 2, raise serious questions about what schools officials knew; and whether they are now trying to engage in a cover up.
It all began with Leon Smith, a former school custodian.
“He was up on the girl, and had his hands up on top of her,” said Smith. “I guess they must’ve been kissing, because he was so close up on her.”
Smith said he informed Dan Bridges, the West Aurora High School principal at the time, of what he saw.
Bridges, in an August phone call, told CBS 2 that Smith did not report seeing Orland touching the girl.
District 129 Superintendent Dr. Jim Rydland said nowhere in Bridges’ notes did it say Smith reported touching.
“There was no physical contact,” said Rydland. “The information was that there wasn’t anything that would rise to the occasion that would require mandated reporting.”
But police investigative reports tell a different story. One report said Smith told Bridges that Orland had his hands on the student. Another said Orland admitted he ran when Smith walked in on him and the girl, because he was scared and caught off guard.
Despite that, district officials investigated internally, instead of calling the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or police.
Then they just gave Orland a warning: do not be alone with female students.
“If these guys ask somebody ‘Hey were you molesting a child?’ What do you think the guys going to say? ‘Of course not,” Wilson said. “’Oh, okay. Well, just don’t be alone with kids.’ That’s ridiculous.”
After the warning, Orland was still allowed to give out dozens of hall passes to get girls alone, and he went on an overnight band trip where he had sexual relations with a student.
“These kids are going to be scarred for the rest of their lives,” said Wilson.
Police reports indicated Bridges interviewed the custodian twice. Notes from the first interview said touching, but notes from the second interview did not.
Bridges is now superintendent of Naperville School District 203. He and other District 129 officials are being investigated by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office for failing to report suspected abuse.
A DCFS spokesman said school districts are not allowed to investigate abuse claims internally; they have to report it to DCFS and the police.