Identity of student who harassed classmate with hundreds of graphic texts protected by Illinois law

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Authorities say a fellow student confessed to sending a middle school girl hundreds of sexually graphic and harassing texts but that suspect's identity is being protected.

The sexually harassing texts were sent to the victim from a burner app that generates phone numbers.

"My daughter has a right to know who harassed her, who threatened her," said Brandi Klein, the victim's mother. "I also believe the school should."

The Kleins, who live in Geneva, said their now-13-year-old daughter had no idea who was sending her hundreds of sexually harassing and graphic texts.

"As I started reading them out loud, and my daughter was standing there, and she started bawling, hysterically, and she started shaking, and she was like 'Mama, you don't need to read that, you don't need to read that,'" Klein told the ITeam in November, 2018. "There were so many."

Klein and her daughter gave the Kane County Sheriff names of three classmates who they thought might be behind the cyber-bullying. The sheriff told ABC 7 that one of those students confessed. Instead of charging the young man with a juvenile misdemeanor, the sheriff chose to put him through an online rehabilitation program.

"You must complete this program in a certain amount of time and it has corrective parameters around it where you are, you are learning the impact of social media and you are learning corrective communication skills," said Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain.

Because the juvenile offender in this case was not charged, state law says he must remain anonymous to the victim and his school.

"She has to go to school, she has to live in a neighborhood, she has to live in this community and not know who violated her, who threatened her who harassed her," says Klein. "The offender's rights are being more protected than the victim's."

Former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney and federal prosecutor Bob Milan said overall he agrees diverting minors out of the criminal system, but has an issue with this case.

"I think it is a disservice to the victim because it puts her in a very difficult situation," Milan said. "In a situation like this you have a young man who sent hundreds and hundreds of inappropriate texts to a 12-year-old girl, you may want to rethink that. That's a case in which you would want to send him into the system, you'd want to file a juvenile petition against him for the offender and for the victim. And the victim gets more counseling she needs."

Knowles asked Sheriff Hain if he'd like to say anything to the mother of the victim, who isn't happy with the punishment.

"Well its Illinois juvenile state law and it's very restrictive about information that we can release," he said. "One of the main remedies she was hoping for was an apology and unfortunately we can't force an apology. What we can do are the steps we've already taken, which is a thorough police investigation. We went the extra mile with our external consultant, and we've plugged him into a corrective platform to try and correct their behavior."

Sheriff Hain also added "no contact" with the victim is part of the "corrective platform," and if the offender doesn't finish the program, he could face charges in juvenile court.

But Klein said keeping the offender anonymous lessens his accountability and prevents her daughter from getting assistance from the Kane County Victim's Advocacy Services.

"She's terrified, her grades are dropping, she has anxiety, a lot of it-- None of that was an issue before this happened," Klein said. "To put this on top of everything else you deal with as a 13-year-old, it's a lot."

The I-Team contacted the middle school both teens attend but they did not return calls.

To protect your teen you can:

- Vigilantly monitor your child's social media accounts.
- Ask your local police or school district if there are programs to help teach parents and children about the dangers of digital platforms.
- There are also apps which can help monitor your children's phone, we put them on our website.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

https://www.webwatcher.com/
https://www.mymobilewatchdog.com/
Juvenile Justice Online program
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