A lawyer representing current and former students in the Maine West High School hazing case alleged that the school's principal knew about the abuse in 2008.
Antonio Romanucci, of Romanucci & Blandin, said a letter sent to Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan in 2008 showed she knew about the abuse, and did not report it to District 207, as required by law. Ken Wallace, superintendent at D-207, said in November that the first reports the district received of bullying and hazing at the Des Plaines high school were in September 2012.
Romanucci addressed the press outside the District 207 boardroom, where members were meeting in closed session about a variety of hazing-related issues. Romanucci said that the school board has acknowledged the letter exists.
“The school board has said that the school was aware of it, but the school board was not aware,” Romanucci said. “So somewhere there was a failure to communicate between the school and the school board itself with respect to this letter.”
An attorney representing Haugan and two other D-207 employees in the civil suit, but not in employment matters, said the situation was different than it was being portrayed.
Michael Kujawa, an attorney at Judge, James & Kujawa, said it was too early in the process for him to comment on the allegation.
“But it’s certainly not as Mr. Romanucci has portrayed it to be,” Kujawa said.
Kujawa said the copies of the 2008 letter he saw on news outlets were heavily redacted. Click here to view the 2008 letter.
“I think when the letter is placed in the proper context, everybody at Maine West has a reasonable explanation for the actions that they took, and when they took them, and why they took them,” Kujawa said. “And at the time, the allegations were addressed, and the mother of this particular student was responded to, and action was taken, which satisfied her complaint.”
A second amended complaint was filed for the plaintiffs on Jan. 17. Rebekah Williams, an associate attorney at Romanucci & Blandin, said the new complaint strengthened claims against Haugan by adding her as an individual defendant, not only as an agent for D-207.
“We added some factual allegations with regards to Principal Haugan, and her knowledge and lack of action,” Williams said.
Click on the PDF with this post to read the second amended complaint. The first amended complaint and the original complaint were both filed in November 2012.
Kujawa said there was not a major difference in the complaint by naming Haugan as an individual defendant in addition to as an agent of D-207. He said there were all sorts of different ways a complaint could be plead.
“The plaintiff’s attorney may feel that there’s some big distinction there — I don’t, personally, in terms of the defense of the civil lawsuit,” Kujawa said.
David Beery, spokesperson at D-207, said no disciplinary action had been taken with Haugan related to the district’s investigation into bullying and hazing reports.
Messages left for attorneys representing Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez in employment proceedings with D-207 were not returned at publication time. D-207 began the dismissal process on Divincenzo, in December, and Rodriguez, in January, in connection with its investigation into bullying and hazing reports at Maine West.
“In my opinion, this has been a very one-sided story thus far, and that may be in some ways our fault because we haven’t said a lot on the defense side of the case,” Kujawa said.
But that’s the way litigation works sometimes, he said.
“There’s a lot of allegations in that complaint that we’ll see, down the line, whether they actually hold up,” Kujawa said. “Oftentimes in a complaint there are allegations made that don’t necessarily stand up to the test when they’re challenged, so that’s about all I can say right now.”