A 46-year-old North Riverside man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison by a Cook County judge last week, after the man, a former teacher in Berwyn School District 100, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing girls in his classroom. Robert Sperlik Jr., who previously had maintained his innocence, pleaded guilty on Sept. 7 to aggravated criminal sexual abuse, unlawful restraint, indecent solicitation and aggravated kidnapping.
He had faced a total of 243 charges in 11 cases involving 20 victims, according to Tandra Simonton, spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney. Since his arrest in January 2005, Sperlik has been held at Cook County Jail without bond. The plea deal was reached in part, Simonton said, to prevent the minor victims from having to testify in court.
Sperlik, who was a band teacher at District 100 in Berwyn for nearly 20 years, was charged in connection with incidents that occurred between 1998 and 2003. In February 2005, a Cook County State's Attorney spokesperson described one of the incidents involving a girl between the ages of 8 and 12.
Sperlik on multiple occasions used duct tape to bind her legs and stomach to a chair and taped her arms behind her. Sperlik then touched the girl on her shoulders, breasts and thigh. On one occasion, he put a rag in the girl's mouth and taped over it.
Berwyn police reported finding 30 to 40 bondage sex tapes at Sperlik's Westover Avenue residence after his arrest; none contained images of the children. In addition, Berwyn police reported getting written confessions from Sperlik shortly after his arrest. Sperlik's lawyer, William Hedrick, later attempted to have the confessions thrown out, saying they had been obtained inappropriately. Judge Thomas Tucker, who presided over the case, ruled the confessions were admissible in court in April 2006.
Sperlik's attorney did not return a call seeking comment on the plea agreement.
In March 2005, the Cook County State's Attorney and Berwyn Police filed a misdemeanor charge against former Pershing School Principal Karen Grindle for failing to report previous allegations of child abuse by Sperlik against a student. In 2001, according to the charges, students had complained that Sperlik had touched them inappropriately. She was later acquitted of that charge.
However, she along with other past and present District 100 officials, remains the target of a civil lawsuit in federal court. The suit seeks cash damages to be levied against District 100 for failing to "exercise ordinary care ... by allowing Defendant Sperlik access to private rooms to meet individually and in small groups with young girls" despite the statements from three girls in 2001 alleging that Sperlik had "touched their genitalia and breasts when he was supposed to be teaching them in his band class."
According to the suit, Grindle had received a written copy of that report and then notified other principals, the superintendent and school board members, "yet took no action to stop the ongoing abuse of the young girls."