A teacher accused of molesting eight children in Moline-Coal Valley School District in 2018 was returned the job after being cleared in an investigation, according to a lawsuit against the district settled Monday.
Details about allegations and the investigation are unclear. They were mentioned in a suit against the district brought by a former custodian whose daughter was among the alleged victims. The custodian sued the district after he was fired for not showing up to school, reportedly because he'd been forced to work in the same building as the teacher accused of molesting his daughter.
The district has declined to comment, citing the litigation. In the district’s court response to the lawsuit it stated the allegations against the teacher were determined to be unfounded after an investigation by “independent, impartial agencies,” and no criminal charges were filed. It’s unclear whether police investigated. A call and an email to the Moline Police Department seeking comment on the allegations weren’t immediately returned.
Both the suit and the school board name the custodian in public documents, but the newspaper is not publishing the custodian’s name in an effort to protect the identity of his daughter and any alleged victims. The suit does not name the teacher accused.
The alleged abuse happened at Roosevelt Elementary School sometime prior to January 2019. The custodian originally worked at Moline High School and learned of the abuse allegations after he’d put in a transfer to Roosevelt. According to the suit, the district largely ignored the custodian’s request to transfer back to Moline High. The custodian and his wife moved their daughter to another elementary school.
The suit states Assistant Superintendent Todd DeTaeye offered to return the man to his previous position at Moline High School, but the district later rescinded that offer, stating the position had been filled by an outside applicant. The district board of education, in its court response, denied that this offer had ever been made.
The custodian suffers from multiple anxiety-related disorders and, the lawsuit states, he explained to DeTaeye and the district's chief financial officer, Dave McDermont, that working in the same building as the teacher accused of molesting his daughter would trigger his anxiety. He also presented a letter from the Department of Child and Family Services stating he should not be working in the same building as the accused teacher.
The custodian reportedly asked to be accommodated for his disabilities by being returned to his old position at Moline High School, and when he was told that wasn't possible, he requested he be switched to any other school, even if it meant losing his seniority or working second or third shift for less money, the lawsuit states.
The district acknowledged in its response that the custodian presented a letter from the Department of Child and Family Services and asked to be transferred to other schools. The board denied that the custodian had ever informed them of his disorders or specifically requested the transfers in the context of disability accommodation.
The lawsuit states DeTaeye and McDermont told the custodian they couldn't do anything about the situation and his options were to report to work at Roosevelt Elementary or be out of a job, but the district denies this allegation.
The custodian took 12 weeks of paternity leave and returned to work in April 2019, but after the first day, he realized he couldn't emotionally handle working in the same building as the accused teacher. He called in sick two days in a row and then missed a day of work after staying up late into the night writing an email to each of the Moline School Board members.
He reportedly pleaded his case again at a meeting arranged by the school board, according to the lawsuit, and was subsequently fired.
"At all times relevant, the administration and school board were fully aware of plaintiff's disabilities and the effect forcing him to work at the same school as the teacher accused of molesting his own daughter was having on him, yet kept plaintiff in that position and fired him because of the direct effect it was having on plaintiff, refusing a multitude of potential accommodations that could have reasonably been accorded," the lawsuit states.
The custodian filed the suit last year, claiming one count of disability discrimination and one count of failure to accommodate disability. He asked for at least $50,000 in damages for loss of enjoyment of life and emotional pain and suffering. At its meeting Monday, the school board voted to settle for an undisclosed sum.