An allegation by an Evanston Township High School alumnus against a now-retired teacher has multiplied, as other ETHS grads made similar accusations about the same teacher.

On Oct. 25, Perry Polinski, Communications Coordinator for the Evanston Police Department, told the RoundTable, “From what I understand, approximately 50 individuals have contacted investigators with information at this point in time. Due to the scope, the number of victims remains fluid, as investigators continue to follow up on this information. To the best of my knowledge, the teacher has not yet been interviewed as this is still actively being investigated.”

The most recent alleged incident appears to have occurred in the 1990s, according to a statement from ETHS.

“There have been no arrests, and the investigation is ongoing. It is a complex and in-depth investigation, especially since some of the allegations are from over a decade ago. Detectives are fielding calls and conducting interviews,” Evanston Police Commander Joseph Dugan told the RoundTable.

No criminal charges have been filed, but two former ETHS students have filed civil suits against the former teacher, ETHS, and the District 202 School Board.  John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, both students at ETHS during the late 1970s, allege that the former teacher groped them. The complaints also allege on information and belief that ETHS administrators knew or should have known of the teacher’s alleged misconduct.

ETHS officials are cooperating with the investigation, according to a statement from Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, but because of the nature of the investigation, they are not releasing specific information to the public.

A statement issued by Dr. Witherspoon on Oct. 12 said that on the previous day, ETHS had been notified of an allegation against the former teacher, and high school officials had contacted the Evanston Police Department that day.

Based on the original allegation, ETHS determined that the former teacher had purchased a ticket to the showcase celebrating 60 years of the student-written and -produced YAMO. On Oct. 12, the school issued a no-trespass order to the teacher, banning the former teacher from the ETHS campus and from “any school-related or school-sponsored activities and events,” according to Dr. Witherspoon’s statement.

In the ensuing week, several accusations against the same teacher by other former ETHS students surfaced, and on Oct. 18, Dr. Witherspoon sent a letter to the ETHS community that began, “On behalf of Evanston Township High School District 202, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the expressed pain that has surfaced among our alumni in light of recent allegations that a former teacher who retired from the District in the 1990s engaged in inappropriate sexual touching, groping, and harassment of former students while employed at the District.

“We are deeply sorry for the pain certain individuals may be experiencing as a result of these allegations, and recognize how these allegations may impact ETHS graduates, their classmates, loved ones, current students, parents and staff in different ways. I want to assure you that the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is our top priority, and that our school has a comprehensive list of current practices, policies, procedures, and programs in place to help avoid and immediately address the types of inexcusable conduct that has been alleged. Those protocols are reviewed annually.

“The District has initiated its own internal review on this matter and is cooperating fully with the Evanston Police Department in their investigation of these allegations. …

In accordance with State law, the District also reported the allegations earlier this week to the Department of Children and Family Services as well as the Illinois State Board of Education.”

Allan Alson, the previous Superintendent of District 202, sent the following statement via email: “I was superintendent of Evanston Township High School for 14 years, from Aug. 14, 1992 to June 30, 2006.  During that time my administration had an absolute zero tolerance toward any form of abuse toward students.  Any and all credible allegations that came to our attention were investigated to the fullest extent possible and referred to the police where warranted.  As to the current issue involving a former Theatre teacher at ETHS, I have no recollection of any allegations of sexual abuse being brought to my attention.”

The Evanston Police Department encourages anyone with information about this matter to call 847-424-7703.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...