The state’s child welfare agency has declared as “unfounded” an abuse report made against North Riverside resident Robert Sperlik Jr., the Berwyn elementary schoolteacher jailed on charges of sexually abusing his students.
In a surprising development, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services sent Sperlik a letter April 20 informing him that, “after a thorough evaluation, we have determined the report to be unfounded. This means that credible evidence of child abuse and neglect has not been found.”
The letter said the report was of “suspected child abuse or neglect.”
Sperlik, 45, is accused of molesting 20 of his students from 1998 to 2003. He allegedly duct-taped students to chairs and inappropriately touched some during private music lessons. He is being held in jail without bond awaiting a criminal trial. Several civil suits have also been filed against him by former pupils.
Although the letter, provided by Sperlik’s attorney Michael Graf, informs Sperlik of the investigation’s results, it gives no detail about the content of the investigation. It does list the investigation site as Heritage Middle School in Berwyn.
“It’s pretty vague. It just says there was an evaluation done and it was unfounded,” said Graf. “It could greatly influence this case, but we can’t be sure until we see [the full report].”
DCFS investigation files are normally destroyed 10 days after allegations are determined to be unfounded, but a judge on Wednesday granted Sperlik’s motion to maintain the file for future use. Graf said he will likely have to subpoena DCFS to get the report.
Elizabeth Yore, general counsel for DCFS, said she could not talk about the specific case.
“‘Unfounded’ means we investigated that report and did not find there to be any credible evidence,” said Yore, “but it only addresses a particular allegation.”
She said letters of this nature could refer to one or some of multiple allegations against a recipient. Still, Graf said Sperlik was glad to hear the news.
“He was somewhat relieved that an investigation has basically indicated what he has said all along,” Graf said, “which is that he didn’t do the things he’s accused of doing.”
Thomas Stanton, spokesman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, said his office could not comment on the DCFS report at this time.