Lake Co. school board meets on sexting scandal

November 21, 2011 8:39:41 PM PST
The Lake County School Board held a packed meeting Monday night to discuss the case of a principal caught sexting.

Deer Path Middle School principal John Steinert resigned Sunday for using a school cell phone to send explicit text messages. While Steinert has resigned, many parents hope the superintendent does the same thing.

Students were back to school Monday with an interim principal as parents and residents shifted their anger toward school district officials.

Monday evening, parents expressed their outrage over how the scandal at Deer Path Middle School was handled, a day after they lashed out at Lake Forest District 67 Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith for not letting the public know back in 2009 that Deer Path Middle School principal John Steinert was criminally charged for sending dozens of sexually explicit text messages and voice mails to a 22-year-old Lake Forest Police Department intern in 2008.

"They were aware of the investigation, they were aware that the phone that he had used, the school-issued phone, was seized by us with a search warrant, and they were certainly aware that he was criminally charged in this case," said Jay Patrick of the Gurnee Police Department.

The Gurnee Police Department handled the case because that is where the female victim lived when she received the lewd messages. She filed charges in January 2009. A month later, through a freedom of information request, school officials only received a redacted version of the police report because the case was still pending.

"We had no idea, none, of the heinous nature of the texting. Appalling. Terrible," said Griffith.

Parents say that even if the board only received an edited version, it is no excuse.

"The community has lost its trust in the superintendent and the board of education, and the people sitting up there just don't get that. They're not listening," said parent Michael Beacham.

Gurnee police say the full police report was available to school officials after Steinert pleaded guilty in May 2009, and given that it was a criminal matter, police assumed school officials would look at the full report.

"Our records indicate there were no other communications with the school district after that, there were no formal requests made after their initial request for the report," said Patrick.

"That was our mistake - I didn't realize that. The board of Education was involved, our school attorney was involved, our personnel department was involved," said Griffith Sunday. "It just did not occur to us that that was the protocol of the court itself."

Griffith has said he has no plans of resigning before his scheduled retirement at the end of June.

Also, the city of Lake Forest is also now conducting an investigation into allegations that the police department school resource officer made inappropriate remarks to the victim in this case. That officer has been temporarily reassigned.

The mayor read a statement Monday night saying the city and police department "take any allegation of employee misconduct very seriously."

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