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IL high court OKs suit on Unit 5's inaction on abuse

Thu, 09 Aug 2012 14:54:39 CDT
By: IPR's Brian Mackey

A ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court today says the Unit Five school district, which fired a teacher over allegations of sexual misconduct, had a duty to warn another district where the teacher later found work. IPR's Brian Mackey reports.

Jon White was suspended from a teaching job in McLean County after parents complained of misconduct with their daughters. The next school year, White was hired to teach second grade in Urbana. He was eventually convicted of sexually abusing 10 girls in both places. Some of the girls' parents filed a civil lawsuit against both school districts, and that's what was before the Supreme Court. The parents argue McLean County had a duty to warn Urbana about White. Sean Britton argued the case on behalf of the victims in January.

"This is not the circumstance where a bomb squad fails to adequately cordon off a bomb and protect members of the public. This is a circumstance where the bomb squad takes that bomb, puts it in a package and mails it to another municipality, and says, 'We don't know what's in that package.' "

In a 5-to-2 decision, the high court agreed. The justices say when McLean County filled out an employment verification form for the Urbana schools, it had a duty to disclose White's suspensions. The decision opens the way for the case to go to trial.

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