‘Sexting’ scandal needs more insight

By Alexandra Kukulka

School administrators have been making the news frequently these last few months, and not in a good way. Specifically they’ve been accused of condoning or performing scandalous acts, such as rape, sexting and harassment. Why some feel the need to do these things is unclear, but then again, it is hard for any mentally dysfunctional person to explain the logic behind touching and harassing other people.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a 40-year-old Deer Path Middle School principal, John Steinert, who was sending inappropriate text messages and voicemails to a 22-year-old college intern in 2008 and 2009. In the text messages, Steinert asked her what sexual acts she would like from him, and they culminated with him sending her a picture of his penis.

The young woman, who rightfully would not disclose her name to the public, told him to leave her alone, but he persisted and told her to stop being a tease. If a woman tells you that she wants you to leave her alone, that is not teasing. She is simply not interested in you for whatever reason.

The most frustrating part about this case is the fact that Steinert was allowed to keep his job after he pleaded guilty in court and was sentenced to probation. When the district superintendent, Harry Griffith was informed about the case, he simply read a redacted police report, not asking to read an unexpurgated one, and had a staff member interview Steinert. No one interviewed the young girl because she wasn’t a minor. Basically, Griffith slapped Steinert on the wrist and shook his head. After that, Steinert received a letter of admonition, a temporary salary freeze and a counselor. The school also decided to take away his cellphone. But less than a year later, the principal received a $3,050 bonus. He has now resigned.

Currently, the Illinois State Board of Education is further investigating whether to suspend Steinert’s certification. It may be true that Steinert has cooperated with law officials, paid his fines and done his community service. However, he harassed a young woman and caused her stress, along with mental and physical discomfort. He should be given a harsher punishment, such as jail time and losing his teaching license. If he acts like this around young adults, it could get worse if he continues to surround himself with middle schoolers.

Giving Steinert community service sounds like good punishment, right? Well, he actually completed his hours at Full Package Athletic Inc., a community service group that works with disadvantaged children, which is co-owned by Steinert’s subordinate and eighth grade teacher, Matt Truding, from Deer Path. This seems like a big conflict of interest. What makes this whole situation look even more suspicious is Truding’s refusal to answer who arranged Steinert’s community service with these kids and whether the court knew the two men worked together.

Has no one learned a lesson from Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno? The Penn State duo has taken the heat and given the world a lesson in sex scandals and hiding information. Apparently, not everyone has fully comprehended this message.

The one positive outcome of this investigation is that journalists were the ones to initiate it. The Lake Forest School District did not start looking into the situation until The Tribune began asking questions and conducting research. This fact makes me proud to be a journalist and all the effort that I am putting into becoming one. This case proves that journalists are the fourth estate of government and are true watchdogs when keeping officials in line.

In the end, it is really disturbing that the authorities didn’t do anything sooner. They’re in charge of the safety of students, and should retire or take their jobs more seriously. No one should have to deal with the consequences of sexual abuse.