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West Aurora officials: District will expand safety plan

Retired Dade County detective John Wilsadmonishes District 129 school board for its recent approval hiring legal defense team during school

Retired Dade County detective John Wilson admonishes the District 129 school board for its recent approval of hiring a legal defense team during a school board meeting at West Aurora High School on Monday, September 17, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 18, 2012 10:20AM

Mutual Ground’s staff members currently work to educate West Aurora District 129 grade school and middle school students on the dangers of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

The domestic abuse shelter’s executive director spoke with the Board of Education on Monday about expanding those efforts to increase the number of grade school students, and work with West Aurora High School as well.

“This is an ongoing process,” West Aurora Superintendent James Rydland said. “What we want to make sure is that we have a clearly delineated line of work.”

Mutual Ground Executive Director Michelle Meyer said they talk with other high school and grade school students in the southern Kane and Kendall county territory that they service, Meyer said. Board members wanted to find out what the logistics would be like for expanding the organization’s services within the district.

The conversation came as part of the school board’s discussion on a safety action plan. The plan details more than 30 items designed to make the district safer for students. The items vary from the distribution of the school’s sexual abuse policy to all employees annually, to developing and distributing stop abuse posters. Some of the items are currently implemented, some are in the process of being implemented, and some are in planning, board members said.

The school safety plan is being discussed after talk of former band director Steve Orland has resurfaced within the district. Last month, former janitor Leon Smith reached out to the Beacon-News regarding an incident he witnessed in 2010, between Orland and a student in the band storage room.

Smith 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, allowing the agency to investigate. The case is currently under investigation by the Kane County State’s Attorney.

These recent developments have stirred a reaction from some parents and West Aurora citizens. One West Aurora citizen asked for Rydland’s resignation during the public comments section of the meeting. Another spoke about abuse allegations, and a cover up that involved her children. The board does not respond to public comments that are not on their agenda, based on policy. Instead they discussed ways to make the district safer.

They discussed several ideas off the safety action plan on Monday, including placing advertisements on the buses with a number that can be called for students to report abuse.

They are also talking about adding a scanning system at all the grade schools and middle schools that will scan a guest’s driver’s license, and report back if they are a sex offender.

That system is already in place at the high school. Board member Angie Smith had questions about the logistics of this type of system being in place at the grade schools and middle schools.

She wanted to know what happens when the name turns up positive as a sex offender, and if the authorities were then notified. She also wanted to make sure secretaries were trained to handle that type of situation.

“I could see a secretary having to deal with a big gentleman who’s unhappy,” she said.

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