URBANA — Local authorities have concluded that no crime occurred in a recent incident involving a staff member and a student at Thomas Paine Elementary School in Urbana.
Urbana police Lt. Rich Surles said Friday that a joint investigation into the alleged conduct of a staff member at the school on James Cherry Drive was launched because of a hotline report to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services made sometime last weekend.
The allegation was that, on Sept. 3, a staff member made inappropriate physical contact with a student on the playground during recess.
An email from Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum to parents said the Department of Children and Family Services received a report over the weekend and began an investigation Monday afternoon.
Urbana Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum had told Thomas Paine parents in an email Monday night that an issue of “student safety” was under investigation and that the employee and Principal Delores Lloyd had been placed on administrative leave while it took place.
On Tuesday, Urbana police detectives and an attorney from the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office joined DCFS employees in an investigation, which “included interviews with the student and school staff member in question, as well as potential witnesses to the alleged conduct.”
“As a result of the details learned during the investigation, and in consultation with the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office, it has been determined that there is no evidence to support the allegations and no crime occurred during the incident in question,” Surles said.
Surles said those investigating concluded that the information initially provided to school administrators would not have required reporting to DCFS.
Surles said all Urbana school district employees cooperated in “a thorough and appropriately expeditious investigation.”
He said all of the agencies involved encourage members of the public to continue to report incidents of suspected abuse so that the authorities may investigate.
The district did not return calls or emails from News-Gazette Media seeking comment, but another email was sent Friday to Thomas Paine parents from district spokesman Kameron Williams reiterating what police said.
“USD116 is relieved for the family and student involved that DCFS and UPD independently found that absolutely no abuse occurred,” the statement said.
Chad Beckett, the family’s Urbana-based attorney, said that’s at odds with what the family has been told, as did DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch.
“The family does not believe the matter is concluded as suggested in the school district’s statement. We will have further comment in due course,” Beckett said late Friday.
“DCFS still has a pending investigation going in this matter,” Strokosch added. “The criteria for a crime is not the same as DCFS criteria for abuse and neglect. Their (the police) investigation is only in determining if crime is occurring. We have not concluded our investigation.”
Strokosch was unable to say when that might happen.
The district apologized to parents for the concern the incident caused.
“USD116 has no control over premature news stories or overstated messaging. It is the policy of the Board to not only fully cooperate with investigations, but also to protect the confidentiality and privacy of those involved,” its statement read.