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No charges to be filed in Geneva school incident

Mill Creek Elementary School Geneva.

Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva.

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:41AM

GENEVA — No criminal charges will be filed in an incident earlier this month at Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva involving a parent upset about the way students said the Pledge of Allegiance.

But the parent, 41-year-old Colin McGroarty, will permanently be banned from the school, the School District said Friday.

The state’s attorney’s office said the decision not to file charges was made after an investigation by the Kane County sheriff’s office.

McGroarty said Friday he was not surprised by the decision because “there was no foundation for charges.”

McGroarty had been a parent volunteer at Mill Creek Elementary, where his two children are students.

In the Jan. 9 incident, McGroarty complained that the Pledge of Allegiance was being recited improperly while he was in the school library, where a kindergarten class was present, the sheriff’s office said. The students said the Pledge, and then recited the Mill Creek school creed.

School officials said McGroarty used “language that is not typically heard in a school setting.” They said the situation was “quickly resolved” and the sheriff’s office was notified.

However, that evening, McGroarty e-mailed complaints to School Board members, administrators and a group of parents in the Mill Creek community, and also posted a social media message, school officials said.

“The individual in question in this case certainly showed a gross lack of judgment through his actions in Mill Creek Elementary School on Jan. 9,” Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said Friday. “He compounded the situation by e-mailing a note about the incident to other school parents and by making additional statements about the incident via social media.

“But his behavior, although inappropriate, irresponsible and lacking in even the most basic common sense, was not criminal conduct. The investigation revealed that the learning environment was never unlawfully disrupted, nor was the safety of the students, teachers or anyone else ever at risk.”

McMahon said the School District has “permanently prohibited” McGroarty from setting foot on district property.

“That would seem to be the most appropriate response to this incident,” McMahon said.

A School District statement Friday said although the state’s attorney decided not to prosecute, McGroarty’s “actions and statements following the incident ... did disrupt the school day, were perceived by many as alarming, and created an atmosphere of uneasiness in our school, our district, and our community. Geneva School District has permanently prohibited this individual from entering school property.

“Particularly in the current climate of school violence, the disruption of the school environment will not be tolerated.”

McGroarty said he will not give up “on pursuing the issue (on social media).”

McGroarty said he objects to the children reciting the school creed immediately after saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

“My personal belief is that it should not be done without the parents’ knowledge and consent. I have received an outpouring of support,” he said.

McGroarty said he has not been in contact with school officials since the incident.

“It will be difficult to not be able to participate as frequently in my children’s lives and see what they are swearing oath to,” McGroarty said.

Correspondent Linda Girardi contributed to this story.

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