Parents of Haven Middle School student frustrated with lack of progress on assault investigation


Daily file photo by Edward Cox

Evanston police are investigating a claim that a Haven Middle School staff member acted in an inappropriate way. The investigation is ongoing.

Samantha Handler, City Editor

Haven Middle School parents said their daughter was sexually assaulted by a custodian on school grounds, according to a letter the parents sent to city and school officials.

In the Oct. 23 letter obtained by The Daily, the parents — whose names were not disclosed — said the assault occurred on Oct. 4 at around 1:50 p.m. in the girl’s bathroom by a custodian. They sent the letter to Haven principal Kathy Roberson, Mayor Steve Hagerty and Evanston police chief Demitrous Cook.

“On Friday, October 4, 2019, our family’s life changed forever when our 12-year-old, seventh grade daughter was raped,” the parents said in the letter. “Our family is enraged, upset, shocked and cannot believe our new reality.”

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 interim superintendents said in a statement that they previously had not disclosed the nature of the assault to protect the privacy of the student and the ongoing Evanston Police Department and Department of Children and Family Services investigations.

Interim superintendents Phil Ehrhardt and Heidi Wennstrom said in the statement that law enforcement and the district will take “necessary and appropriate” actions against anyone found responsible after the investigations.

“We were shocked and deeply distressed to learn this,” the interim superintendents said in the statement. “Our immediate concern was and continues to be to support this student in every way possible and do all we can to make sure all of our students and staff are safe.”

Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew told The Daily on Tuesday that there are no updates on the investigation. He previously said police are investigating only one person and no one has been charged. The district said the staff member has been placed on leave. The incident was reported on Oct. 7.

The parents listed questions they have for the district and police, including “how could this brutal sexual attack happen at Haven?” and “what does the school plan to make sure this doesn’t happen to another student?”

“I (the mother) grew up in Evanston and graduated from Haven and ETHS,” the letter said. “If we had any idea that lurking in the hallways of Evanston schools are every parent’s worst nightmare, we would have protected our daughter and enrolled her in another school.”

Earlier in October, Roberson sent a letter to parents saying the school had learned that a staff member was “inappropriate” with a student during school hours. Roberson’s sent a letter to parents saying after the school learned of the complaint, the district contacted EPD and DCFS. She wrote that maintaining a safe and welcoming environment at school is a high priority for the district.

EPD went to the school, met with the student and the student’s parent and began investigating the allegation, according to the letter. District 65 also started its own investigation.

In a follow-up letter two weeks ago, Roberson said the district is in “daily contact” with EPD and DCFS, whose investigations are ongoing.

“We continue to focus on maintaining a safe and welcoming educational environment for all of our students,” the second letter said. “We have also maintained our focus on academic and social emotional learning and have observed students to be actively engaged in instruction and activities all week.”

A previous version of this story misstated the behavior of the staff member in the photo caption. The staff member acted in an inappropriate way. The Daily Regrets the error.

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Twitter: @sn_handler