Sunday, October 26, 2008

IL: Ex-Unit 5 teacher Jon White denies allegations in federal lawsuit

By Edith Brady-Lunny
Friday, October 24, 2008 3:54 PM CDT

URBANA -- Former Colene Hoose Elementary School teacher Jon White has denied most of the allegations contained in a federal lawsuit filed against him and officials of the Unit 5 and Urbana school districts.

In a response filed Thursday by his attorneys, White admitted that he played a game with students that involved placing an object in their mouths for his sexual gratification or arousal.

The former teacher is serving 60 years for sexually abusing eight students at Urbana’s Thomas Paine Elementary School and two Hoose students. He taught at Hoose in Normal from 2002 to 2005 before accepting an assignment in Urbana, where he taught until his arrest in January 2007.

White, 28, admits in court documents that he watched pornography on his classroom computer at Hoose in 2004 and showed photographs of actress Mena Suvari to a female fifth-grader. He said John Pye, Unit 5 assistant superintendent of operations and human resources, and current Hoose Principal Ed Heinemann were aware of both activities.

White was given a letter of recommendation as part of a separation agreement with Unit 5.

Pye, Heinemann, former Hoose Assistant Principal Dale Heidbreder, former Hoose Principal Jim Braksick, and former Unit 5 Superintendent Alan Chapman also are named in the federal lawsuit filed by Champaign attorney Ellyn Bullock on behalf of an Urbana student identified as Jane Doe-2 and her mother, Julie Doe-2.

The former teacher acknowledges that he was asked by Urbana school officials in November 2006 about what has been described in court records as “the taste test game” after a student told her mother about the activity.

White told school officials that Jane Doe-2, a second-grader, and other students “played a taste test game in his classroom involving different flavors being placed on a banana and explained it was part of a unit on senses that included Helen Keller,” said White’s response filed by attorney Brett Olmstead.

Also part of the lawsuit are claims that White committed battery or a hate crime related to the abuse. He denied it and demanded a jury trial.

Unit 5 filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the claims of Jane Doe-2 involve the Urbana district and White’s misconduct outside Normal.

In her reply to Unit 5, Bullock repeated the claim that local school officials were aware of White’s inappropriate behavior before he went to work in Champaign County. She called the Unit 5 position “perplexing and disingenuous.”

The federal lawsuit seeks $1 million from each of the school districts.

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