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At a very brief special meeting of the District 202 School Board on Jan. 18, the four members present – Pat Savage-Williams, Gretchen Livingston, Pat Maunsell and Mark Metz – voted unanimously to approve the settlement of three lawsuits and one potential lawsuit against the District in connection with allegations of sexual abuse by a former employee. In each case the District was a co-defendant with Bruce Siewerth, who was employed by Evanston Township High School, chiefly in the drama department, for nearly 30 years.
Just after the minutes-long meeting, District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon sent a statement to Evanston Township High School families, which states in part:
“Evanston Township High School District 202 is pleased to report that it has reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in the Bruce Siewerth matter. The plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss their complaints against the School District, but will continue their case against Mr. Siewerth.
“Reports surfaced in the fall of 2017 that Mr. Siewerth, who retired from the School District in 1998, engaged in inappropriate conduct with students while employed at the School District. Lawsuits were then filed against Mr. Siewerth in his individual capacity and against the School District by three former students who graduated in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The School District also became aware of a fourth individual who engaged the same plaintiff’s counsel but had not yet filed suit. While the School District maintains that it did not have knowledge of any of the allegations made against Mr. Siewerth, since the filing of the lawsuits the School District has sought to work with plaintiffs, through their attorneys, to resolve these matters and avoid costly and drawn out litigation.
“Through the parties’ dialogue, the plaintiffs and the School District have reached a unique settlement that meets both the plaintiffs’ and the School District’s goal to create a positive solution out of intolerable circumstances. Specifically, instead of paying any settlement amounts to the plaintiffs, the School District will commit to spending a total of $100,000 over the course of the next 10 years to enhance already existing programs sponsored by the School District for the benefit of Evanston High School students that address sexual assault awareness, reporting, and prevention.
“The School District reemphasizes its empathy for any individuals that may have been victimized and is grateful a resolution could be reached that benefits ETHS students and the greater Evanston school community.”