Supt.: Principal's sexting 'shocking, unacceptable'

November 18, 2011 3:01:00 PM PST
Three years after his arrest, Deerpath Middle School Principal John Steinert was placed on paid leave for sending explicit text messages and photos to a 22-year-old woman.

The Lake Forest School Board will meet Sunday to discuss Steinert's future at Lake Forest School District 67.

"I'll be recommending termination to the board of education," Dr. Harry Griffith, superintendent, said.

Dr. Griffith met with angry parents Friday about the matter. His 2009 arrest was brought to light by news reports, which led to the paid leave. Steinert had an excellent reputation as an educator until his arrest in 2009. In 2008, he sent sexually explicit text messages and photos to a then 22-year-old woman.

"The way that the community found out about this. The way we found out about it and certainly and most importantly, the heinous nature of the kind of texting he was doing does not warrant continued employment in our district," Dr. Griffith said.

According to the police report, the woman was, in 2008, an intern with the lake Forest Police Department. Through that internship, she visited Deerpath several times, which is when she met Principal Steinert. The text messages -- of which there were more than 40 -- were sent from Steinert's district-issued cell phone. They started in May 2008 after her internship ended and continued until January 2009, when she finally went to police.

"He wanted to meet with her. It was pretty obvious that he was trying to have some type of sexual relationship with he. That never happened and she told him that would never happen and he continued to pursue her with these text messages," Cmdr. Jay Patrick, Gurnee Police Department, said.

ABC7 News obtained a copy of that police report. Many of the text messages are too explicit to show, but even in those that are not, the intent is clear.

One June 8, 2008, Steinert sent a text: "What are you doing tonight? want to meet up somewhere? we need to get together sometime soon"

She replied, "maybe i haven't been clear with you. LEAVE ME ALONE. U r harassing me. I have no interest in you."

In 2009, Steinert pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment through electronic communications. Parents want to know why it took three years for the school district to act.

"Only recently in the last few days did we see the material for what it was," Dr. Griffith said. "Shocking. Shocking and unacceptable and we did not have that information two years ago."

The 40-year-old principal was unavailable for comment Friday, but released a statement to the Chicago Tribune Thursday, which read, in part: "Three years ago I made a big mistake in my personal life. I still regret my actions and what I did to another individual to cause them stress. I am filled will remorse and am sorry for any embarrassment that this has caused my family and the school community."

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