Asbury Street entrance to Evanston Township High School. Credit: RoundTable file photo

Officials at Evanston Township High School District 202 agreed in October 2021 to pay $225,000 to settle a law suit filed in 2019 by a student and her mother over the sexual abuse of the girl by security guards, according to court records.

The settlement was not made public until the news outlet Evanston Patch sued the district for violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to turn over the documents. It was published Friday by Evanston Patch.

The payment does not constitute an admission of liability by school officials, according to the settlement.

The federal civil rights case named Superintendent Eric Witherspoon and ETHS Principal Marcus Campbell, along with two former high school security guards, the district and the board, saying the parties failed to properly handle sexual abuse against students perpetrated by school security guards.

The complaint against the district claimed that a “preventable series of sexual grooming, sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetrated by two Evanston Township High School security officers” occurred between 2015 and 2019.

The suit also alleged Witherspoon and Campbell “had prior knowledge” of repeated sexual misconduct committed by the security staff members in question, and they and other district officials “either had actual knowledge and/or they deliberately
turned a blind eye to [the security officers’] unlawful sexual conduct” with minors.

In October, following a lengthy legal battle between the district and the plaintiffs, ETHS agreed to pay $225,000 to the former student who filed the suit.

The settlement stated: “The payment is not to be construed as an admission of liability, but represents the compromise of a disputed claim and is intended to resolve this dispute and avoid the costs and risks of litigation arising from the alleged injury to plaintiffs and the events. … The defendants continue to deny any liability for the events and further deny the nature and extent of Plaintiffs’ claimed injuries.”

As part of the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs and their attorneys were also bound to secrecy regarding the payment and the alleged behavior of district officials. The plaintiffs agreed not to “disparage” Witherspoon, Campbell and other administrators by saying they “lack ethics or abilities, or acted with recklessness or negligence.”

The settlement approval never appeared on any of the District 202 Board of Education agendas in the fall of 2021.

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. This is truly shocking! It’s pretty hard to believe that the District would have settled for such a large amount if absolutely nothing untoward had occurred. I certainly hope that none of these security guards are still working at the school.
    Sadly, ETHS has a tawdry history of covering up bad stuff that happens there…I remember years ago, when my son was at the high school, there was an apparent burglary ring of security officers who broke into the students’ lockers during phys ed and stole cell phones and other valuable items.
    I also remember an incident in which a young Latina student was abused by another student in a stairway of the high school, and somehow when she tried to press charges, it turned out that the security cameras in that hallway had not been operational.
    There must be a way for the community to have more access to the truth about what is going on at the high school.