On November 19, 2019, a jury determined that a Chicagoland school district was liable for willful and wanton hiring when a kindergarten teacher allegedly sexually abused at least two students. The jury awarded one of the students $2.5 million dollars.
In 2013, a former kindergarten teacher was arrested for sexually abusing a kindergarten student in 2001-2002 while working at Cicero School District. After the arrest, two separate lawsuits were filed in 2016 by two former kindergarten students, both alleging their kindergarten teacher sexually abused them during the 2001-2002 school year. Specifically, the former students and plaintiffs, who are represented by the same attorney, allege negligent/willful and wanton failure to supervise, negligent/willful and wanton hiring, negligent/willful and wanton retention, and negligent/willful and wanton failure to report against the Cicero School District and the school. The plaintiffs also alleged that the District hired the teacher without conducting a criminal background check, reference checks, or employment verifications.
One of the two cases was tried before a jury on November 19. Despite finding in favor of the District regarding the supervision and retention claims, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff with respect to the hiring claim. As a result, the plaintiff was awarded $2.5 million.
This case serves as a reminder that school districts should thoroughly vet all candidates before allowing them to be with students.