- See related story: Parents, Community Members Seek Accountability from District 67 Board, Superintendent
The School District 67 Board of Education voted unanimously to accept the resignation of John Steinert as principal of Deer Path Middle School in a special meeting Sunday night at district headquarters in Lake Forest.
But the angry audience members in attendance, a mix of parents and community members, wanted a second resignation from Superintendent Harry Griffith.
Griffith said he would not resign because of new information, , surrounding Steinert’s conviction of sexting a Lake Forest College intern in 2009.
“The situation is different now than it was in 2009,” Griffith said. “If I had had this information in 2009, we would not be here tonight.”
After meeting for more than 90 minutes Sunday night in closed session, Board president Julia Wold did not ask for Griffith’s resignation as part of her post meeting remarks nor did she report that Griffith had offered it.
Griffith said he understood “there is anger in the community,” and he accepted that his accountability was being called into question over the handling of Steinert’s employment.
“Of course I take accountability,” Griffith said to a gathering of media outlets. “I wish I had had that information in 2009. Absolutely every bit of it. I didn’t realize the information was there.”
Over an eight-month period starting in May of 2008 and ending in December of 2009, Steinert, 40, sent more than 50 text messages on his school district-issued cell phone and a lewd photo of his penis to the 22-year-old intern, who ignored the messages or told him to stop it. He met the intern while she was shadowing a school resource office at the middle school.
In 2009, Steinert was convicted of misdemeanor harassment and District 67 required him to seek counseling and temporarily froze his salary, according to Griffith.
Griffith said the district sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Gurnee Police on Steinert’s case after his arrest, and the police report they received was heavily redacted. Griffith said their FOIA request had asked for all documents on the case.
“I did not understand that the redacted document would be eventually unredacted when the court ruled on it,” Griffith said. “That was an error we made in not getting the right information at that time. We thought we had the right information in 2009.”
Griffith said the board, the human resource department and the school’s attorney were all involved. “It just did not occur to us that that was the protocol of the court,” Griffith said.
that he realized there was an unredacted report available.
“We had information that this was about texting between two adults.,” he said. “When we actually saw what the real material was just three days ago, we realized it was more about sexting.”
Steinert’s last day of compensation with District 67 was Friday, according to Wold, and Griffith added there will be no severance of any kind. Griffith noted Steinert has worked for two other school districts besides District 67, so his criminal record “is unrelated to what his particular pension is.”
As part of its action Sunday night, the board will hold a second meeting with parents at 5 p.m. Monday (Nov. 21), and a third one will be held at 5 p.m. Nov. 29 before the school board meeting that night.
A task force will be formed involving both District 67 staff and community members. The task force will:
- review district policies and consider administrative guidelines for handling situations in which employees are charged with criminal conduct.
- broaden district policies to include anti-harassment activity beyond district students, staff and employees;
- establish a task force (including community members) to review student and staff electronic and social media policies and procedures;
The District will also suspend the youth officer program at Deer Path Middle School immediately, pending further review, and if this program is reinstated a new officer would be assigned.
The Lake Forest City Council will meet in closed session at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss charges against the school resource officer, who allegedly made sexual remarks to the same intern, who told Gurnee Police. Mayor James Cowhey is expected to make a statement after the meeting.