Dear District 129 Family,
Superintendent Rydland has asked me to share this statement we provided the media on Aug. 20 concerning a 2010 personnel matter involving former band director Steve Orland.
Community Relations Director
The District was recently contacted by Channel 2 News and the Beacon concerning a report about former employee Steve Orland made in July of 2010 by a District custodian. This custodian has now contacted the press and alleged that he had reported improper conduct by Mr. Orland in 2010, but that the District had not reported it to DCFS and had not taken appropriate follow up action with respect to Mr. Orland.
Our review of the matter disclosed that in late July of 2010 this custodian reported to his union president that approximately two or three weeks earlier he had seen Mr. Orland in the band instrument storage room with a female student. This is an instrument storage room which is frequented by both students and staff.The union president told the custodian to report it to his supervisor, the high school assistant principal. He made the same report to the assistant principal and the following day the custodian was interviewed by the building principal, Dan Bridges, along with Assistant Principal Slou. He told Mr. Bridges that he was at the foot of the stairs leading to the band storage room and heard laughing. Believing students might be in the room he went up the stairs. The door was open and he observed Mr. Orland in the room with a female student. Mr. Orland was standing close to the student, but they were fully dressed, he did not observe any touching, and the student was giggling.
Mr. Bridges reported those facts to the Superintendent, that is, that Mr. Orland was observed in the band storage room with a female student, but that there was no touching or other improper conduct observed. The custodian could only give a very vague description of the student. Mr. Orland was interviewed. He advised that he was often with students alone and he could not identify any particular female student, and also denied any improper conduct with any female student. There was no security camera on the storage room entrance, but security cameras in the adjoining hallway did not disclose a student matching the description in the time frame referenced by the custodian. Checking the summer band schedule also did not help in identifying the student. As a result, the District did not have an alleged victim or anyallegation from a student or parent of improper conduct, nor did the observation of the custodian show improper conduct. No report was made to DCFS as the facts would not support an allegation of abuse or neglect. Teachers are alone with students on numerous occasions.
This matter occurred during the summer when Mr. Orland gave music lessons. Mr. Bridges advised Mr. Orland that being alone with the student in the band storage room could be misconstrued. At Mr. Bridges’ request the Superintendent also met with Mr. Orland and admonished him not to put himself in a position that could be misconstrued. Mr. Orland was advised that failure to follow this direction would be considered poor judgment and would subject him to discipline up to and including termination.
The area of the band storage room was identified as a blind spot in the building and a security camera was added to that area along with other blind spots to better monitor persons entering and leaving the area. In addition, the District has been proactive in strengthening its abuse reporting policy and in meeting with District personnel to make sure they are aware of their mandated reporting requirements.
After consulting with counsel, no report was made to DCFS about the 2010 matter because the facts reported would not support an allegation of abuse or neglect. Teachers are alone with students on numerous occasions. The only information the District had at the time was that Mr. Orland was alone in a room with a student, in a place in the building that was frequented by both students and staff, and that no physical contact, inappropriate or otherwise, occurred. For that reason, the District also did not have sufficient information to take any disciplinary action against Mr. Orland. In 2011 a District employee did observe conduct by Mr. Orland in the presence of a female student that would cause a reasonable person to suspect improper conduct. Mr. Orland was placed on leave and an immediate report was made to DCFS as well as the police. On further investigation the District terminated Mr. Orland as an employee. He was ultimately charged and pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct. This was all done on the initiative of the District and without a complaint from any victim or third party.