Third Urbana school administrator found guilty in White case

URBANA — Janice Bradley, the former principal of Thomas Paine Elementary School in Urbana, was convicted this morning of one count of failure to report suspicions of child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Judge John Kennedy found that Bradley, 56, of Champaign, did not report to DCFS suspicions of inappropriate sexual conduct with children on the part of Jon White — a former Thomas Paine teacher now serving 60 years in prison for 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, including eight in Champaign County.

In Illinois, all school staff — as well as others who regularly work with children — are required by law to report suspicions of abuse or neglect of children. Neither Bradley nor any school district employee reported concerns about White, now 28, to DCFS.

In court today, Bradley was sentenced to 18 months of court supervision, fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of public service.

She had been charged with two counts of the crime, but one charge was dropped.

Bradley is the third former Urbana schools employee to receive penalties for her actions concerning White. She refused to comment.

On Monday, Kennedy found former Urbana schools Superintendent Gene Amberg, 58, of Urbana, guilty of the same crime. He had been charged with a single count and was also sentenced to 18 months of court supervision, fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of public service.

In December, Carmelita Thomas, the former human resources director for Urbana schools who was also charged with a single count, pleaded guilty and was given the same sentence.

All three retired after the 2006-07 school year.

None of the three will suffer a conviction if they complete the terms of their court supervision.

After parents raised concerns to Amberg about White’s behavior with their daughter in early November 2006, Bradley investigated the incident. In a letter, Bradley then told the parents and Amberg she was satisfied that White was using “a legitimate teaching technique,” according to the statement of facts Rietz presented to Kennedy in court on Monday in Amberg’s case.

According to facts presented to the judge Thursday in Bradley’s case, the former principal heard complaints about White from a second set of parents on Jan. 3, 2007. The parents of that girl also reported to Bradley that their child participated in the “tasting game” during recess. Bradley checked with the child’s teacher, who said she didn’t give the child a pass from lunch. Bradley did not report that incident to DCFS or to anyone else in the school district administration.

After the sentencing, Rietz said she did not file the criminal charges to send a message, but because evidence supported them.

“However,” she said, “it is important for mandated reporters to understand they have a legal obligation to understand the statute and follow it. For school personnel, that means everyone from the janitor to the district administrators.”

Bradley’s attorney, Ed Piraino, said Bradley was satisfied with the settlement negotiated with Rietz. He said Rietz handled Bradley “with nothing but respect and decency.”

“Hindsight is better than foresight,” Piraino said. “I’m sure if she had to do it all over again, it would be different. She’s been a teacher for 33 years from grade school to principal with no blemishes on her record. I don’t want people to forget who the real criminal is.”

Piraino also criticized Amberg.

“Amberg told her to look into it and she did,” Piraino said. “In all her years, never did the Urbana school district ever have any continuing education (for teachers) on mandated reporting.”

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