URBANA — The cost of resolving abuse claims filed by students of former Unit 5 teacher Jon White has topped $2.6 million in Urbana, where White went to teach after he was forced to resign from the Normal school district.
Exactly what White’s conduct will cost Unit 5 remains unknown.
Settlement agreements with two students who sued Unit 5 in federal court have been filed in McLean County probate court and are expected to be finalized soon, according to James Kearns, the lawyer handling the White matters for the district.
A judge agreed to keep the terms of the agreements confidential, something Unit 5 may not do when it receives the documents because of the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
McLean County First Assistant Kim Campbell, who prosecuted White, said Tuesday that damages paid to victims carry some benefit.
“Nothing will ever make children who have been sexually abused by someone they trust or their families completely whole again after having to live through the whole horrible ordeal, but the offender going to prison and the family being awarded some compensation is at least a step toward helping them move on and recover,” she said.
White is serving 60 years in prison for molesting two girls at Unit 5’s Colene Hoose Elementary School, where he was a teacher in 2004 and 2005, and nine girls at an Urbana elementary school where he taught from the fall of 2006 until his arrest early in 2007.
In documents obtained by The Pantagraph under a FOIA request, the Urbana district disclosed settlements with nine students ranging from $190,000 to $450,000. The families and school officials are prohibited from talking about the agreements under the terms of the settlements.
The settlements allow the children to receive far more than the present-day value of the payouts through annuities purchased by the district. The structured payments will provide money to the students into adulthood.
The lawyers for the Urbana students received at least 30 percent of the present value of the settlements.
The $2.6 million in claims were almost evenly split between the Urbana district and the self-insured pool that handles liability coverage for the district. In February, the Urbana school board approved the sale of $1.6 million in tort bonds to cover its share of the payments.
The Urbana district makes no admission of wrongdoing in the agreements but three former administrators were convicted of failing to report suspected abuse by White to the Department of Children and Family Services and are under court supervision.
The legal fees paid by Urbana’s insurer to defend White lawsuits amounted to about $87,000.
The Urbana district is asking that Unit 5 help cover its costs in the White case. It claims Unit 5 knowingly allowed a pedophile to go on to another school district.
In addition to the pending settlements, Unit 5 and several former and current administrators still face a federal lawsuit filed by two other students.
According to Unit 5 records, more than $82,000 had been paid to lawyers by the district for the White case though November. Additional fees were paid by the insurance firm, said the district.