Settlement reached in West Aurora sex abuse case
By Kalyn Belsha firstname.lastname@example.org February 5, 2014 4:55PM
West Aurora High School Band Director Steve Orland is shown directing the school's freshman band in this October 2010 file photo.
Updated: February 5, 2014 7:59PM
A confidential settlement has been reached in a two-year-old lawsuit against West Aurora School District, its superintendent and a former high school principal over allegations related to a sex abuse case.
Kane County Judge F. Keith Brown dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit filed in 2012 by a student who attended West Aurora High School, which means the case can be appealed, but not refiled.
A settlement was reached sometime before this week, but those records were sealed by the judge.
The young woman, who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe, was a victim of West Aurora’s former high school band director Steve Orland. Orland is serving 12 years in prison for the sexual abuse of two female students, one of whom is Doe.
Orland was dropped from Doe’s lawsuit on Jan. 17. The case against him also was dismissed with prejudice.
Doe’s lawsuit alleged that the school district, Superintendent James Rydland and former West Aurora High School Principal Dan Bridges, who is now the superintendent of Naperville School District 203, failed to protect her from Orland, despite having knowledge of the band director’s past inappropriate behavior with a student in 2010.
Doe alleged that the district, Rydland and Bridges failed to supervise the former teacher or remove him from his post, putting Doe and other female students at risk for abuse.
Doe’s lawyer, Craig Brown, said Wednesday that “the dispute is completely resolved,” but he could not comment on the terms or timeline of the resolution.
Brown said his client was prepared to give a deposition and to testify, if necessary, had this case gone to trial. He added that his client is glad she will be able to avoid the “pain and suffering” of reliving the experience.
“My client is happy to have closure and she is very happy to know that she is significantly responsible for helping make school safer,” Brown said.
Phone messages and emails requesting comment left Wednesday afternoon for Bridges’ lawyer Steve Puiszis, Rydland’s lawyer Nicholas Kourvetaris and West Aurora’s lawyer Melissa Mitchell were not returned as of press time.
Mike Chapin, a spokesman for West Aurora, said the district had no comment.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office conducted a 10-month investigation that wrapped up last spring into whether or not West Aurora staff should have reported suspicions of child abuse by Orland to the state sooner than they did.
That investigation stemmed from a July 2010 incident in which a custodian saw Orland in a dark band storage room with a female student. The custodian said he saw Orland standing in front of a young woman who was pressed up against a wall. He said when he entered the room, Orland fled.
The custodian reported that incident to his superiors, but did not call the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, known as DCFS. The custodian said he thought his superiors would make the call.
District administrators conducted an internal investigation into the incident, but decided not to call DCFS or the police.
The state’s attorney said last May that the July 2010 incident should have been reported to DCFS and that there was enough evidence to charge some school staff with failure to report child abuse, a Class A misdemeanor.
The investigation found as many as 10 West Aurora staffers had knowledge of the incident and did not report it to DCFS or the police.
Instead, the state’s attorney’s office entered into a five-year agreement with the district that requires its staff to receive more training about state-mandated responsibilities to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
“I think what we have accomplished in this compliance plan gets us everything we would have gotten with charges,” Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon said last May. “I have to keep in mind what creates the best environment for students.”
If West Aurora follows the agreement, the state’s attorney’s office will close the investigation.
Staff writer Erika Wurst
contributed to this report.