In the wake of a Maine West High School hazing scandal, the Maine Township High School District 207 board heard recommendations on Tuesday about making changes to a policy on reporting child abuse and neglect.
The alterations mostly stem from recommendations generated by an investigator hired by the district in response to accusations by former high school sports team members who said they were hazed.
According to information provided by the district, current policy states that District 207 high school principals should designate someone at the school to get reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. If the new policy is approved, any district employee who knows or suspects that a student might be abused or neglected instead would be required to directly report that information to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
No board members or district officials commented on the potential policy change during the meeting, and board members did not respond to attempts to seek comment.
A former Maine West High School soccer coach, Michael Divincenzo, has been charged with misdemeanors related to accusations that he allowed hazing and threatened to have varsity students haze younger teammates. Divincenzo has denied doing anything wrong, both to police and through a lawyer at a hearing on the criminal charges.
Divincenzo was fired as a result of the accusations, and some of the alleged victims have sued the school district.
David Beery, District 207 director of communications, said that Sergio Acosta, the independent investigator hired by the district, suggested the district make such changes to the reporting policy, as well as alterations to other policies. The district also is considering some changes based on Illinois Association of School Board recommendations, he said.
"IASB makes recommendations for policy changes and language for all districts, and does so routinely," Beery said. "We've incorporated some of that with these proposals, as we do with many of our policies."
Greg Dietz, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the committee further recommended the district create a separate policy that prohibits retaliation against someone who has opposed bullying, harassment, hazing, discrimination or violations of any civil right. Currently, he said, such prohibitions are embedded within another policy.
"The committee felt it was important in itself to be a policy" of its own, Dietz said.
Another change would strengthen current policy on personnel records, according to Beery. He said that after the independent investigation, the district found that district personnel files should contain all the records in individual school personnel files. That wasn't always the case, he said.
The district's policy committee also suggested making changes somewhat unrelated to hazing issues.
The committee recommended expanding the reasons people should not be discriminated against, specifically adding to those protected classes people who are unfavorably discharged from military service, as well as "any other unlawful basis of discrimination, including harassment." The change, Beery said, would bring the district into compliance with state and federal rules and are part of an effort to update discrimination policies in general.
Beery said it was unclear when the board might next examine the possible policy changes, but they could come up as early as next month.
Tracy Gruen is a freelance reporter. Jonathan Bullington is a Tribune staff reporter.