URBANA — An Urbana elementary school principal has been placed on leave while an issue of “student safety” at her school is being investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services and Urbana police.
And a lawyer for the family of an alleged victim is calling the allegations “disheartening.”
An email from Urbana Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum to Thomas Paine Elementary parents sent Monday night said that DCFS received a report over the weekend about a concern over student safety and began an investigation Monday afternoon.
“It is the policy of the Board that while DCFS investigates the concern, those involved are placed on leave until the conclusion of the investigation," Ivory-Tatum wrote. "The district has been fully cooperating with DCFS. Until DCFS can conclude its investigation, another administrator will be assigned to supervise everyday activities in the building."
The principal at Thomas Paine is Delores Lloyd, who has been there since 2017. There was no direct explanation in the email about who else was put on leave.
Angi Franklin, assistant superintendent of human resources, to whom parents were referred for more information, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
It’s not clear at what point the school district or DCFS notified Urbana police of what was happening.
An investigator is working on the case today and a forensic interview with the child who is the alleged victim is being arranged, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Clark, who is assisting in the coordination of those efforts.
Thomas Paine, a K-5 elementary school at 1801 James Cherry Drive, is the same school that dealt with a sex scandal that surfaced in early 2007 involving a teacher who abused several young girls.
Jon White, now 39, is serving a 60-year prison sentence, imposed in 2008, for eight counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
And after those allegations came to light, so did similar allegations involving other students at a grade school in Normal where White taught before being hired by the Urbana school district. White ended up pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in McLean County as well. Those convictions are part of his 60-year sentence.
One of the team of defense lawyers for White, Chad Beckett of Urbana, represents the family of the alleged victim at Thomas Paine.
“The family is shocked and disappointed with these allegations,” he told News-Gazette Media on Tuesday morning. “Since the process is continuing, they are learning along with the rest of us what is happening. It is particularly disheartening because this seems to be a repeat of what’s already happened at this school and they are simply profoundly sad.”
The so-called practice of “passing” a teacher known to have difficulties in one district on to another district was the subject of multiple lawsuits against both the Normal and Urbana school districts and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in settlements.
In addition to those civil liabilities, three school administrators, including former Superintendent Gene Amberg, were convicted of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to DCFS.
However, they were given sentences of court supervision that allowed them to escape permanent convictions.