The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services apparently has no record of a complaint or report being made against a part-time teacher at Ames School who was wrongfully accused in 2011 of sexually abusing the daughter of the principal of Ames School.
The teacher, Susan Battersby, recently wrote to DCFS and asked whether she had ever been the subject of a DCFS report.
“I am contacting you regarding the possibility of me being a subject of a DCFS complaint or report,” Battersby wrote in her two sentence letter to DCFS dated Jan 26, 2013, a copy of which has been provided to the Landmark. “I am requesting any information in DCFS records to verify if DCFS has ever been contacted regarding me.”
Battersby received a reply by letter from DCFS, which was also shared with the Landmark.
“After searching our records we find nothing in our files associated with the information provided from your letter,” wrote Nora Harms-Pavelski, the DCFS administrator of its State Central Register, in her letter to Battersby dated Feb. 4, 2013.
Jimmie Whitelow, a spokesman for DCFS, said Harms-Pavelski’s response means there is no mention of Battersby in the DCFS Central Register of those accused of abuse.
“That is a correct interpretation,” Whitelow said.
On Feb 1, the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education emailed a letter to parents of students in the district saying that DCFS learned of allegations against Battersby in a Sept. 15, 2011 interview with Lieggi’s daughter.
Whitelow would not say whether DCFS contacted Lieggi after the interview.
According to the school board’s letter, DCFS determined within 24 hours that the allegations against Battersby were not credible and informed Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi of that finding.
However, the school board’s letter raises several questions. For one thing the Riverside police report into the matter does not mention that anyone from DCFS was present at the Sept. 15, 2011 interview with Lieggi’s daughter.
According to the police report, the interview was conducted by an interviewer for the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, not DCFS. The Advocacy Center is an agency that partners with police, prosecutors and DCFS to investigate allegations of child abuse.
Observing the interview, according to the police report, was Riverside Detective David Krull and Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Jacqueline Kwilos.
According to the police report, which was written by Krull, Kwilos and Krull spoke to Colleen Lieggi immediately after the interview with her daughter. There is no mention in the police report of anyone from DCFS talking to Lieggi.
Whitelow would not say whether someone from DCFS was present at the Sept. 15, 2011 interview.
“Based on Illinois law, DCFS in unable to respond to this part of your inquiry,” Whitelow said.
Lieggi did not respond to questions emailed to her asking who informed her that her daughter’s allegations were deemed not credible. Lieggi also did not respond to a telephone message left for her by the Landmark.
If DCFS was aware of the allegations made against Battersby by Lieggi’s daughter it would appear that DCFS should have a record of such allegations, even though they were ultimately determined to be unfounded.
DCFS rules and state law call for the department to “maintain in its central register for three years a listing of unfounded reports involving the death of a child, the sexual abuse of a child, or serious physical injury to a child as defined by the department in rules.”
A police investigation exonerated Battersby. District 96 first attempted to fire Battersby for what it says were unrelated policy violations. After Battersby was cleared by the police, the district backtracked and District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson reportedly offered Battersby another job in the district.
Ultimately Battersby and the district agreed on a separation agreement in December 2011 under which Battersby resigned and agreed not to sue the district and the district agreed to pay her for the rest of the school year.
Although the school board’s letter states that Colleen Lieggi first learned of her daughters allegations against Battersby immediately after the Sept 15, 2011 interview, the police report tells a different story.
According to the police report, Lieggi met with Krull at the Riverside police station on Sept. 14, 2011, the day before her daughter’s interview at the Advocacy Center. During her meeting with Krull, according to the police report, Lieggi told Krull that her daughter had told her of the alleged sexual abuse on Sept. 9.
In October 2012, Lieggi told the Landmark by email that she had only gone to the police because an investigator from DCFS had told her to do so. But it is unclear if Lieggi was then referring to allegations made against her ex-husband, a Riverside family, or Battersby. Like Battersby, both the ex-husband and the Riverside family were also cleared by the police investigation.
According to DCFS rules and state law, when a school district employee reports to DCFS that another school district employee may have abused a child the department’s Child Protective Service Unit will send a copy of its final finding report to the superintendent of the district.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Landmark District 96 said Tuesday afternoon that it does not possess a DCFS report about allegations made against Battersby.