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West Aurora paid $32,000 in legal fees for sex abuse lawsuit

Updated: March 26, 2014 6:25AM

AURORA — West Aurora School District paid at least $32,000 in legal fees on a 2012 civil case filed by a sex abuse victim of the district’s former high school band director.

Information obtained Friday through a Freedom of Information Act request shows the district paid $32,071.89 in legal fees from September 2012, when the lawsuit was filed, though the end of 2013.

West Aurora hasn’t received legal bills for January or February, spokesman Mike Chapin said via email. As of press time, he could not elaborate on whether the district expects to receive bills for these months.

The case was dismissed with prejudice by a Kane County judge on Feb. 3, which means it can’t be refiled, but could be appealed. The judge sealed the terms of the settlement, court records show.

Chapin said via email Monday that “the district does not expect to receive any legal bills” for the legal fees of Superintendent James Rydland or former West Aurora High School principal Dan Bridges, who also were defendants in the lawsuit filed by a young woman referred to in court documents as Jane Doe.

The lawsuit alleged that West Aurora, Rydland and Bridges, who is now the superintendent of Naperville School District 203, failed to protect Doe from then-band director Steve Orland, despite having knowledge of his past inappropriate behavior with a student in 2010.

In 2012, Orland was sent to prison for 12 years for sexually abusing two students, one of whom is Doe.

The lawsuit also alleged that the district, Rydland and Bridges failed to supervise Orland or remove him from his post, putting Doe and other students at risk for abuse.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request asking if West Aurora has contributed money to the settlement, the district said on Friday that it did not have any “responsive records.”

Craig Brown, who represented Doe in the case, said on Monday that Doe “sought to have the terms kept confidential to protect her privacy and to mitigate future emotional distress.”

Doe is now a college student in her early 20s, Brown said.

Brown said earlier this month that Doe was prepared to give a deposition and to testify, if necessary, had the civil case gone to trial. When a settlement was reached, she was glad to avoid the “pain and suffering” of reliving the experience, Brown said.

“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 earlier this month.

After a 10-month Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office investigation into whether West Aurora staff should have reported suspicions of child abuse by Orland to the state sooner than they did, the district entered into a five-year agreement with the office.

The agreement requires that school staff receive more training about their state-mandated responsibilities to report suspected child abuse and neglect. If West Aurora follows the agreement, the office will close the investigation.

The state’s attorney said last May that there was enough evidence to charge some school staff with misdemeanor failure to report child abuse.

The investigation found as many as 10 West Aurora staffers had knowledge of a 2010 incident involving Orland and a student and did not report that information to the state or police.

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