A 45-year-old North Riverside man is being held without bond in Cook County Jail after he was charged with sexually abusing five girls, all under the age of 13, between 1999 and 2003.
Robert Sperlik of 2340 Westover Ave., a band teacher in South Berwyn Elementary School District 100 was placed on administrative leave after officials there learned that the Cook County State’s Attorneys office was filing charges ranging from criminal sexual abuse to aggravated kidnapping against him.
According to Berwyn Public Safety Director Frank Marzullo, Sperlik was charged with five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, two counts of kidnapping and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
Calling this an isolated incident that slipped through the cracks, Marzullo said the first victim, now a high school student, came forward after speaking to her younger sister and mother.
“A parent of one of the victims, who’s now a sophomore in high school, had a conversation with her daughter, and this came out,” Marzullo said. “They thought it was rectified, but it wasn’t.”
During the interview process, other victims were identified.
“We found out this was a lot more serious than the school district thought it was,” said Marzullo.
He added that the incidents occurred during school hours on school property, and confirmed that duct tape was used.
Sperlik, Marzullo said, has given a written confession to the charges and 12 other students are being questioned as potential witnesses and victims, with more charges to follow.
In addition, the Berwyn Police Department is working with the North Riverside Police Department in case any allegations of abuse at Sperlik’s residence surface, Marzullo said.
“We wish it would have never happened, that he never had been hired, and obviously that he never teaches again,” said Marzullo, who declined to elaborate on the details of any of the charges, which were filed over the weekend of Jan. 15-16.
This is not the first time Sperlik’s name has surfaced in connection with an improper incident at the district.
A teacher in all seven district schools, Sperlik has two letters of reprimand from the school district in his file, according to Marzullo.
The first gives Sperlik general guidelines on proper and improper teaching methods, the second is a reprimand for “inappropriate behavior with students; touching and things of that nature,” Marzullo said.
One of the complaints in the letters involves at least three of the current victims.
Marzullo added that the school district did not notify either the police or the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services of any previous allegations.
“I can reasonably assume that the school district did not know what was going on to the extent that we do now,” Marzullo said.
Karen Uhren, the personnel director for District 100, would not comment on any past allegations against Sperlik, saying that the district is conducting its own internal investigation.
Uhren confirmed that Sperlik had been employed by the district as the band director since 1987.
“It was a person in a position of authority, a person who has well-liked. Maybe if it was an algebra teacher [the student’s would have come forward sooner], but it was a band teacher, it was something enjoyable,” Marzullo said, adding this was a possible explanation for student’s hesitance to come forward.
Sperlik was also employed part time at Morton West High School in Berwyn and was worked as a musician in several productions of the Circle Theatre group in Forest Park.
Sperlik is scheduled to appear at Maybrook for a preliminary court hearing on Feb. 9.