ST. CHARLES – A 10-month Kane County State's Attorney's investigation has found that possibly as many as 10 district employees had knowledge of suspected abuse by former West Aurora High School band director Stephen Orland, but did not report it to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as required by law.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon has decided to defer for 60 months prosecuting against any district officials or employees in exchange for the district signing an agreement designed to protect students from abuse.
"This agreement today accomplishes more than we would have accomplished if we would have proceeded with criminal charges," McMahon said Wednesday in announcing the agreement. "We didn't see evidence that somebody was trying to cover up or act in malice."
Orland, 43, of North Aurora, was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He will have to serve at least six years in prison. He had been charged with 27 counts that included battery, sexual assault and sexual abuse of two students.
Leon Smith, a retired West Aurora High School custodian, attended Wednesday's press conference. Smith said he witnessed Orland "up against a girl" during an incident in July 2010.
"I told my employer what I saw," Smith said. "I didn't think I was supposed to take it to DCFS."
McMahon said that does not relieve the legal obligation of reporting any abuse to DCFS.
"Essentially every employee of the district is a mandated reporter," he said.
After Smith reported the abuse, the school district conducted an internal investigation, but no additional action was taken. As part of the agreement, the school district will provide a copy of the Manual for Mandated Reporters, a protocol provided by DCFS, to all employees and to new hires. Mandated reporters also will have to complete DCFS training.
In addition, the district will have to provide annual in-service training to all employees about the duties and responsibilities of mandated reporters, and designate an employee to serve as compliance officer to ensure compliance with the training requirements.
"Both the State's Attorney's Office and District 129 have worked diligently over the past year to ensure the safety and well-being of all students," West Aurora School Board 129 said in a statement. "The district has long had in place policies and procedures to report child abuse or neglect claims that meet both the Illinois School Code and Department of Children and Family Services requirements."
According to district officials, 1,600 employees and individuals affiliated with West Aurora School District this spring attended group training using DCFS' online mandated reporter training program to refresh their knowledge and understanding of mandated reporter obligations.