Lawsuit: Unit 5 provided false employment history about Jon White
Jon White, seen here in April, pleaded guilty last year to sexually abusing eight students at Urbana’s Thomas Paine Elementary School and two students at Colene Hoose Elementary School in Normal. (Pantagraph file photo/CARLOS T. MIRANDA) CARLOS T. MIRANDA

BLOOMINGTON -- Unit 5 School District deliberately misled the Urbana school district about former Colene Hoose teacher and convicted sex offender Jon White, according to an Urbana lawsuit filed against the local district.

In the civil action asking at least $1 million in damages, Urbana officials accuse Unit 5 of failing to investigate parental complaints of White's inappropriate behavior toward female students and falsifying White's tenure in Unit 5.

In response to a Pantagraph request, Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus deferred comment until district lawyers could review the lawsuit.

White is serving 60 years for sexually abusing eight students at Urbana's Thomas Paine Elementary School and two at Hoose.

At the center of the new claim is a form that indicates White completed the 2005 school term. But information disclosed after the teacher's arrest revealed that White was removed from his classroom in April 2005 after complaints from the parents of a fifth-grade student who allegedly was followed by White and given photos of an actress he said the girl resembled.

Urbana officials received the documents last spring in response to a subpoena of records held by the Normal Police Department, said the lawsuit.

Previous conduct

White was charged in early 2007 with abusing Paine students. Before accepting an offer to teach in Urbana, White taught at Bloomington's Brigham Elementary School for the 2002 -2003 school term and Normal's Hoose from 2003 to 2005.

The lawsuit said concerns from parents about White's physical contact with Hoose students were ignored by officials. One mother allegedly complained that her daughter reported girls gave White backrubs under his shirt and rubbed his legs under his pants.

Assistant Principal Dale Heidbreder "cut the parent off, refused to listen to her, and insisted that White was an outstanding teacher," according to the action filed by a Chicago law firm.

Court documents disclosed that Unit 5 disciplined White in 2004 for viewing pornography on a classroom computer. When he left Unit 5, he was given a letter of recommendation for his job search.

Costly results

Since White's criminal case ended in February 2008, the Urbana district has settled claims with six families, with each receiving about $300,000, according to court records. The failure of Unit 5 to supply accurate information about White's record should result in the Normal district sharing the financial burden for those claims, argued attorneys for Urbana.

Two federal lawsuits are pending against Unit 5. A hearing in the new lawsuit is set for Feb. 4.


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