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Van Houtte
Jason Van Houtte (TIMES FILE PHOTO)

UPDATED: School board members in the United Township High School District unanimously voted Thursday to fire long-time social studies teacher Jason Van Houtte, who faces charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old female student.

The board discussed the matter behind closed doors for less than 30 minutes before emerging to take action. Van Houtte, who was not at the meeting, can appeal the decision at a Sept. 3 hearing. If he chooses not to fight it, his termination will become final, said Jay Morrow, United Township superintendent.

"It's never an easy decision to fire an employee," said Harry Arvanis, board president. "The evidence was there, and it was important to deal with it immediately."

Police arrested Van Houtte, 37, at his Moline home Wednesday afternoon and charged him with three counts of criminal sexual assault of a minor. Each charge stems from separate incidents that occurred between June and July, in which Van Houtte had sex with a student, according to the criminal complaints.

He was released from jail Wednesday afternoon after posting a $10,000 bond. A first court appearance had not yet been scheduled as of Thursday morning, according to Rock Island County State's Attorney Jeff Terronez's office.

Morrow said a letter will go out to parents today. Fred Segura, United Township principal, made an announcement over the loud speaker at the beginning of the school day today, informing students of the matter.

Van Houtte taught social studies for 10th- and 11th-graders at the school for 15 years and coached boys basketball and baseball. He was placed on paid administrative leave Monday, after police informed district leaders of their investigation.

Also, Van Houtte is the head football coach at Orion High School. He was told not to report to his position Wednesday, which was this season's first day of practice. He was placed on paid leave until the Orion school board meets to make a decision regarding his employment.

"We acted swiftly and appropriately," Morrow said. "My goal is to get this school back in any semblance of being normal. We are going to have to get through the next couple of days with a lot of media attention, the shock of our faculty and the students going through this process. Obviously, we are going through an (array) of emotions dealing with this."

According to police, a person other than the victim filed a complaint with the East Moline Police Department Friday, saying that Van Houtte sent inappropriate text messages to a student. Police found evidence of incidents of sexual assault, which happened at Van Houtte's home in Moline, during their investigation, authorities said. At that point, they called in the Moline Police Department to join the investigation.

Police informed district leaders of the investigation around 8 a.m. Monday, Morrow said. Van Houtte, who showed up for work that day, was immediately called to the office and placed on paid leave. He left on his own will and went to the East Moline Police Department for questioning, Morrow said.

If found guilty, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison on each count, which must be served consecutively. The charges require a mandatory prison sentence, with the person serving at least 85 percent of their time, according to Terronez.

"Our ultimate job is to provide a safe educational environment for our kids," Morrow said. "We need to restore that now ... It's a huge distraction for our community. That's why we are addressing it immediately, so we can move on, because that's what we need to do."


At 10:30 a.m.: School board members in the United Township High School District unanimously voted Thursday to fire long-time social studies teacher Jason Van Houtte, who faces charges of sexually assaulting an underage student.

The board discussed the matter behind closed doors for less than 30 minutes before emerging to take action. Van Houtte, who was not at the meeting, can appeal the decision at a Sept. 3 hearing. If he chooses not to fight it, his termination would become final, said Jay Morrow, United Township superintendent.

"It's never an easy decision to fire an employee," said Harry Arvanis, board president. "The evidence was there, and it was important to deal with it immediately."

Police arrested Van Houtte, 37, at his Moline home Wednesday afternoon and charged him with three counts of criminal sexual assault of a minor. Each charge stems from separate incidents that involved Van Houtte and a female United Township student between the ages of 13 and 17, according to Jeff Terronez, Rock Island County State's Attorney.

He was released from jail Wednesday afternoon after posting a $10,000 bond. A first court appearance had not yet been scheduled as of Thursday morning, according to Terronez's office.

Morrow said a letter will go out to parents today. Fred Segura, United Township principal, made an announcement over the loud speaker at the beginning of the school day today, informing students of the matter.

Van Houtte taught social studies for 10th- and 11th-graders at the school for 15 years and coached boys basketball and baseball. He was placed on paid administrative leave Monday, after police informed district leaders of their investigation.

Also, Van Houtte is the head football coach at Orion High School. He was told not to report to his position Wednesday, which was this season's first day of practice. He was placed on paid leave until the Orion school board meets to make a decision regarding his employment.

"We acted swiftly and appropriately," Morrow said. "My goal is to get this school back in any semblance of being normal. We are going to have to get through the next couple of days with a lot of media attention, the shock of our faculty and the students going through this process. Obviously, we are going through an (array) of emotions dealing with this."

According to police, a person other than the victim filed a complaint with the East Moline Police Department Friday, saying that Van Houtte sent inappropriate text messages to a student. Police found evidence of incidents of sexual assault, which happened at Van Houtte's home in Moline, during their investigation, authorities said. At that point, they called in the Moline Police Department to join the investigation.

Police informed district leaders of the investigation around 8 a.m. Monday, Morrow said. Van Houtte, who showed up for work that day, was immediately called to the office and placed on paid leave. He left on his own will and went to the East Moline Police Department for questioning, Morrow said.

If found guilty, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison on each count, which must be served consecutively. The charges require a mandatory prison sentence, with the person serving at least 85 percent of their time, according to Terronez.

"Our ultimate job is to provide a safe educational environment for our kids," Morrow said. "We need to restore that now ... It's a huge distraction for our community. That's why we are addressing it immediately, so we can move on, because that's what we need to do."


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United Township board fires accused teacher

AT 8 a.m.: The United Township School Board voted 7-0 this morning to dismiss Jason Van Houtte, the 37-year-old UT social studies teacher who faces three counts of criminal sexual assault of a minor.

The board met for about 30 minutes before voting to dismiss Van Houtte, who has taught in the district for 15 years.


United Township teacher charged with sexual assault

EARLIER STORY: A 37-year-old United Township social studies teacher faces felony charges after he was accused of having sex with an underage student on multiple occasions.

Moline police arrested Jason Van Houtte, who has taught in the district for 15 years, at his home Wednesday afternoon and charged him with three counts of criminal sexual assault of a minor. Each charge stems from separate incidents that all allegedly involved Van Houtte and a female student between the ages of 13 and 17 at his house in Moline, said Jeff Terronez, Rock Island County State's Attorney.

Terronez declined to comment on when the incidents allegedly occurred.

Van Houtte was released from jail Wednesday after posting a $10,000 bond. He did not answer the door at his home late Wednesday afternoon.

He has been on paid administrative leave from his job in the United Township High School District since Monday, when police first informed the district of their investigation, said Jay Morrow, UTHS superintendent.

"We were shocked," Morrow said. "It's difficult to explain to kids that a well-respected and well-liked teacher is accused of something like this."

United Township school board members will meet at 7 a.m. today to discuss what action, if any, they will take against Van Houtte. Morrow said they can either vote to fire or keep him on paid administrative leave until the charges are resolved.

Van Houtte, who is not married, teaches 10th- and 11th-graders, while also coaching United Township High School boys' basketball and baseball teams.

In addition, he was the head football coach for Orion High School. David Deets, Orion superintendent, said Van Houtte was told not to report to his assignment Wednesday, which was the first day of practice in Illinois.

According to East Moline Police Chief Victor Moreno, an unnamed person other than the victim filed an official complaint Friday with the East Moline Police Department against Van Houtte, alleging he sent inappropriate text messages to a student. Police became aware of the alleged incidents of sexual assault, which happened at Van Houtte's house in Moline, during their investigation. At that point, they called in the Moline Police Department.

Police informed district leaders of the investigation around 8 a.m. Monday morning, Morrow said. Van Houtte, who showed up for work that day, was immediately called down to the office and placed on paid leave. He left the school on his own and went to the East Moline Police Department for questioning.

Morrow said he informed the school board of the situation Monday night during its regular meeting. If board members vote to fire Van Houtte, he will have the ability to appeal the decision and have a hearing.

Van Houtte's first court appearance has not yet been scheduled.

If found guilty, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison on each count. The charges require a mandatory prison sentence, with the person serving at least 85 percent of their time, Terronez said.

Jim Widdop, Rock Island County regional superintendent, said his office, which has the ability to suspend teacher certificates, has been notified of the allegations against Van Houtte. The Illinois State Board of Education was made aware of

the situation when a Quad-City Times reporter called, said Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the state.

School districts are not required to report such incidents to the state agency, despite its authority to revoke teaching certificates, she said.

Morrow said the district has not yet notified parents or students of the situation, because officials were waiting for police to charge Van Houtte. A letter will go out to parents today, and officials will meet this morning with students to inform them of the allegations.

Administrators informed teachers Tuesday night of the investigation.

"I want to make sure we communicate to parents that once we found out about the problem, we got him out of the classroom immediately," Morrow said. "We wanted to make sure there was no contact with students."

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