West Aurora focuses on creating safe environment for students
BY MATT BRENNAN For the Beacon-news September 4, 2012 11:02PM
District 129 School Board president Neal Ormond reads a prepared statement regarding former West Aurora High School band director Steve Orland, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to having sexual relations with students, during a school board meeting on Tuesday, September 4, 2012, at West Aurora High School. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 6, 2012 1:41PM
West Aurora School District 129 Board of Education officials acknowledged on Tuesday, that the district is under investigation by the Kane County State’s Attorney regarding the failure to report an incident involving former Band Director Steve Orland in 2010.
Orland was later dismissed after a separate incident in 2011, and is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for sexual abuse. On Tuesday evening, School Board President Neal Ormond read a written statement from the district, responding to recent allegations.
“First, the board has directed an immediate review of the allegations concerning the failure to report. Second, the board continues to cooperate fully with DCFS and the State’s Attorney’s Office in their review of the matter.”
The talk about the Orland matter resurfaced over the last two weeks as a former West Aurora janitor reached out to the Beacon News regarding an incident he witnessed in 2010, between Orland and a student in a band storage room.
The janitor met with school officials, who declined to report the matter to DCFS based on the advice of legal council. DCFS later issued a statement saying that the district should have reported the incident based on suspicion, to allow the agency to investigate.
While there were parents and citizens in the audience on Tuesday evening, none had signed up to speak on the matter. The district may be constrained in the information that they can share on the investigation, but they are placing an emphasis on creating a safe and healthy learning environment for students, according to the statement.
The board took the opportunity to discuss the district’s Safety Action Plan, a document centered around creating safe environments for students both in the school buildings, and on school buses.
The document includes items that are currently in place, in the process of implementation, and could be implemented in the future. The document includes everything from the distribution of the sexual abuse policy to all district employees annually, to developing and distributing report abuse and stop abuse posters. There are 32 items on the list, in various stages of completion, many of which the district had completed before recent allegations.
“These are things we’ve had in place,” board member Jonathan Woods said. “We’ve been talking about them, and we’ve been doing them for the last eight years.”
Superintendent Jim Rydland said that the district will be working with outside organizations in the community such as Mutual Ground to ensure that the schools and by extension the community, are safer.
“I want to make sure we have the right people in the room.”