BY CASEY TONER
A male math teacher at Rich East High School was like a “father figure” to a female student over the past year or so, according to what she told police.
She went to him with her personal problems and reached out to him last summer after she was sexually assaulted in Chicago, police said.
Now that teacher has been suspended with pay after district officials learned he started having sex with her about a month after she turned 18 years old.
The 39-year-old teacher faces further disciplinary action from Rich Township High School District 227, officials said, but Park Forest police said last week no criminal activity took place, and no charges were filed.
Their relationship was brought to light after photos of the teacher and the student in a sexually suggestive pose on the teacher’s cell phone were forwarded to district officials.
The teacher is the second from the school in two months to be accused of inappropriate contact with a student, and it is at least the fourth case in District 227 in less than five years involving inappropriate conduct by a teacher.
Detectives on Dec. 21 spoke with the student in the latest incident, who said she is a senior at Rich East in Park Forest, police said. She said the teacher taught her during her junior year.
The woman told police that several students had the teacher’s cell phone number, which was on a website that he provided to his classes, police said.
She told police she turned 18 in June and stayed in contact with the teacher throughout the summer. She said she was the victim of a sexual assault in Chicago in July, and the teacher counseled her about it a week later, when he picked her up in his car after she visited friends in Chicago, police said. The student said she was crying, and the teacher gave her a hug and they kissed. She told police they began having sex the next day and had sex 10 times between August and November.
The student said the teacher would pick her up down the street from her house, and they would drive to a hotel in Orland Park, where they would have sex, police said. The student told police she believed the teacher was married and had children. She told police they never had contact at the high school or when she was younger than 18.
The teacher met on Christmas Eve with district officials, who announced Thursday he had been put on paid leave and faces further disciplinary action, including possible termination.
A little more than a month ago, the District 227 Board fired Rich East social studies teacher Rocco Rado. A teacher at the school since 2001, Rado was fired Nov. 20 after district officials learned he had entered into a relationship with one of his former students.
In September, Bryan Craig, a former girls basketball coach at Rich Central, was fired as a guidance counselor for penning a racy self-help book that included crude comments about women’s anatomy and how they could please men sexually, and he urged them to be promiscuous.
Craig since has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the district, claiming wrongful termination.
The district faces another lawsuit, filed in 2010, by a former student who was sexually abused by former Rich South High School teacher Sarah Tolzien. Tolzien pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual abuse in April 2010 after having sex with a 16-year-old Matteson boy twice in November 2008. The judge placed her on probation for 1 1/2 years, and she had to register as a sex offender.
Board President Betty Owens told the SouthtownStar last week that the district isn’t “going out hiring people to come in and be inappropriate.
“We do all the necessary background checks,” Owens said. “I wish I had a crystal ball, that’s all I can say.”
This article was written by CASEY TONER and originally published on southtownstar.suntimes