Saturday, April 08, 2006

Protecting Our Kids

Several stories have appeared in the news over the past week or so involving both male and female teachers engaging in sexual relationships with their students. As a teacher, it seems to be common sense that such behavior is completely unacceptable. However, I have seen many people---teachers and not---violate common sense often enough to know that our schools need to be taking a proactive approach, communicating expectations to teachers, training young professionals to look for warning signs of a relationship going to far, and keeping parents and community members aware of the steps being taken to protect our kids.

Another teacher accused

Posted Thursday, April 06, 2006

For the second time in as many days, a Lake County high school teacher has been accused of molesting a student.

James Lobitz, 36, a 12-year English teacher and the girls track coach at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, engaged in repeated sexual conduct with a 17-year-old student and member of the track team, officials said Wednesday.

Lobitz, of 2752 Hancock Court, Lindenhurst, who also served as a junior varsity girls swim coach for four years, was ordered held on $100,000 bond after being charged with multiple counts of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged former Grayslake Community High School teacher and drama coach Jason Glick with aggravated criminal sexual abuse for contact with a 17-year-old girl at that school.

Warren Township High School District 121 released a statement Wednesday saying it is cooperating with authorities.

According to the district, Lobitz on Feb. 14 tendered a letter of resignation to the school board, effective Feb. 28. The board accepted it.

“The board, administration, and the union continue to keep the interests of students, staff and community at the forefront of concern,” the statement read.

District 121 board member Charles Crowley Jr. said he and other officials were limited about what they could say in the wake of the accusations against Lobitz.

“We have a lot of good people at Warren,” Crowley said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Patricia Fix said Lobitz apparently has known the girl in the case, currently a student at Warren’s Almond Road upperclassmen campus, since the beginning of her freshman year.

Fix said the girl told Gurnee police that between Nov. 24 and Jan. 5, she and Lobitz engaged in sex acts at the school, at his house and at her home in Grayslake.

A custodian walked into a darkened, locked classroom at the school Dec. 28, when school was closed for Christmas break, and reportedly found the two inside, Fix said.

The custodian told school officials the girl was pulling up her pants when he came into the room, but Fix said school officials who interviewed Lobitz and the girl reported both claimed nothing had happened between the two.

Gurnee police were called and they re-interviewed the girl later the same day, Fix said, and she told police she and Lobitz had kissed a few times but no other activity had taken place.

Police received permission to search the girl’s computer, and state’s attorney’s investigator Brian Bone uncovered a document in which a long string of electronic messages between Lobitz and the girl had been stored.

Fix said the document had been deleted from the girl’s computer within a few hours after she was first questioned about Lobitz by school officials.

Police also uncovered wireless text messages the two exchanged during school hours and phone records of calls between the two made before and after school.

The girl was interviewed a second time by police, Fix said, and this time gave a detailed account of the relationship, including an incident Jan. 5 when she was inside Lobitz’s home when his wife arrived and the student was forced to flee.

Fix said police served a search warrant on Lobitz’s house Tuesday night and seized his computer and carpeting from the basement.

Defense attorney Douglas Roberts of Waukegan told Associate Judge Valerie Ceckowski the evidence in the case was weak and Lobitz deserved to be released on a signature bond.

“There have been multiple statements that are mutually contradictory in this case,” Roberts said. “This is a very trialable case in which the defendant has cooperated completely.”

Fix asked for a $200,000 bond because some of the charges against Lobitz mandate a prison sentence of at least four years upon conviction.

Ceckowski set a bond that required Lobitz to post $10,000 cash to be released, then ordered him to have no contact with children other than his own and not to use the Internet while his case is pending.

James Lobitz’s wife, Kimberly, is a social studies teacher at Warren High, school officials confirmed. At one time he worked alongside his wife on the girls swim team’s coaching staff.

In 1991, James Lobitz played on the Fiesta Bowl-champion University of Louisville football team and developed an interest in his wife’s passion for swimming.

James Lobitz, who prosecutors said has no prior criminal convictions, is slated to appear in court again May 12.


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