Monday, October 26, 2009

IL: Durand teacher accused of sexual misconduct with students

By Marissa Alter

Posted: Oct 22, 2009 12:51 PM EDTUpdated: Oct 23, 2009 8:34 AM EDT

DURAND (WREX) - A Durand Spanish teacher spends the day out of the classroom and instead in jail. Police accuse her of having inappropriate contact with four students.

Jennifer Bland, 23, faces 6 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. A Winnebago County judge read the charges to her via video conference in court Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors say Bland had sexual contact with four male students between the ages of 14 and 17. The first incident allegedly happened last spring; the others in September and October.

Thursday, it was business as usual at the Durand School District, despite the fact that teacher Jennifer Bland was absent. Durand Superintendent Dr. Douglas DeSchepper says, "The district will continue to preserve and protect a safe, healthy and academic environment for its students and will take any necessary steps based on the outcome of the alleged incidents."

Investigators began looking into Bland two days ago, when a call came in to Durand Police. The small department asked for back-up from the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Richard Meyers says, "It's not unusual at all for the outlying agencies to give us a call to help on what you would classify as a major investigation. There's a lot of people to talk to. The more quickly you talk to them, the better the investigation goes."

Family sat in to support Bland during the court hearing, but wouldn't comment on the charges.

As the investigation continues, police want help from the public. State's Attorney Joe Bruscato says, "We are asking the cooperation at this moment that those who may have information in this case that may be relevant to this investigation including parents of current and former students, that they may contact the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department."

Bond is set at $200,000. Bland also can't have contact with anyone under 18. She's back in court November 19th.

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