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Teachers Held in Sexual Abuse of Pupils

February 27, 1986|LARRY GREEN | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Three male public school teachers and a former Chicago city councilman and convicted felon who was posing as a teacher have been arrested in the last five days for allegedly sexually abusing students in their classes.

Another teacher was arrested two weeks ago on similar charges, and a former deputy school superintendent is awaiting trial on charges that he molested five students.

"It's outrageous that this kind of person would dare come into our school system," said Julene Lavelli, president of the 30,000-member Chicago Regional Parent Teacher Assn.

The spate of arrests was termed "statistically unusual" by the American Humane Assn., a Denver-based national child protection organization. A study in 30 states where half the nation's children live showed that in 1984 there were only 222 reported cases of teacher-student sexual or physical abuse, said Katie Bond, an information specialist for the association.

'Too Much Sloppiness'

"It's unusual to have that many in a district," said Lyle Hamilton, a spokesman for the National Education Assn. "There is too much sloppiness going on in the hiring practices of school districts."

In the six-county metropolitan Chicago region--where more than 7 million people live--there were only four reported cases of teacher-student sexual abuse in all of 1985.

The new arrests triggered calls by the Chicago PTA and state lawmakers for legislation requiring FBI fingerprint checks of all Illinois school employees. Top school officials met behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss the arrests and allegations and the mounting parent pressure that they support the fingerprint legislation.

'Protect Our Kids First'

"There are only a small percentage of teachers who would harm our kids but we have to protect our kids first," PTA President Lavelli said, refering to the call for fingerprints, a measure opposed by teacher organizations.

"The Board of Education is concerned with their hiring procedures and background checks," said Bob Saigh, Chicago board spokesman. Currently, prospective school employees are asked about their background but there is no follow-up. A new Illinois state law requires a check of state criminal records for all new school employees but relies only on the applicant's name and birth date.

Neither of these checks would have caught the former city councilman who was arrested Monday after allegedly propositioning a 13-year old student.

Fred Hubbard, 57, was working as a $42-a-day substitute teacher, using the identity and credentials of a deceased physician he knew from their days as students at the University of Chicago.

Disappeared in 1971

Hubbard, a liberal independent who challenged and beat a council candidate backed by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, disappeared from Chicago in 1971 along with more than $100,000 in federal job-training funds. He eventually turned up in a Southern California poker parlor where he was arrested. Hubbard was returned to Chicago and tried and convicted of embezzlement. He served 15 months in federal prison and then dropped from public view until Monday. Charged with assault, he is free after posting a $50 bond.

According to Democratic state Rep. Lee Preston, the Hubbard case is a good example of why a fingerprint check is needed for new school employees.

"Parents who put their children in public schools do not have a choice of what school, what classroom or what teacher their children get," said state Rep. Lee Preston. "We have to offer them some measure of protection."

Police Seize Pictures

The most recent arrest came Tuesday night after police said they found pictures of a teacher engaging in sexual practices with two of his male high school students. The pictures had been seized from another teacher arrested Saturday. Police said he admitted he had traded grades for sex with some of his male high school students. Both teachers were still in police custody late Wednesday.

A third teacher was arrested Monday after two eighth-grade girls accused him of sexual abuse. He was also free on bond.

The fourth teacher was accused of sexually assaulting two young girls at a community center on Feb. 19, but the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, according to school spokesman Saigh. That teacher, too, is free on bond and has been removed from all classroom assignments.

Meanwhile, former first deputy school superintendent James Moffat is awaiting trial on allegations that he sexually molested five students while he was a high school principal. He alleges he is the victim of a conspiracy by other school personnel to "get him."

He was indicted last year by a county grand jury on 37 counts of official misconduct and taking indecent liberties with four boys and one girl.

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