A Fenwick High School graduate has called for the firing of a prominent teacher and former boys basketball coach after what she says were multiple instances of inappropriate physical contact made by the teacher, John Quinn, in 2012 and 2014.
Helen Quinn Pasin posted a YouTube video on March 28 detailing some of her allegations against Quinn, who she said she met in 2012. She called Quinn her “abuser” and accused him of hugging her tightly and rubbing his cheek and lips against her face while asking about her “love life” approximately 10 times between 2012 and 2014. In one instance, Pasin said, Quinn looked her up and down “and [made] noises that sounded like he was growling” while hugging her.
Helen Quinn Pasin and John Quinn are not related.
John Quinn released a statement through an attorney last week, touting his accomplishments as an educator and denying Pasin’s claims.
“John Quinn has given his heart and soul to teaching at Fenwick High School for over 40 years,” the statement reads.
“The recent accusation that John abused a Fenwick student over eight years ago is categorically false. John has never abused a Fenwick student, at any time or in any place. John looks forward to continuing in the profession to which he has devoted his entire career.”
Quinn, the younger brother of former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and a longtime employee of the school, was Fenwick’s boys basketball coach from 1985 to 2013 before being abruptly fired as coach. He has continued to work at the school as a social studies teacher since then.
Quinn was a decorated basketball coach before his firing, earning induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame in 2009. He also won a Golden Apple Award for his work as a social studies teacher in 1992.
In her video, which by the morning of April 5 had been viewed more than 42,000 times, Pasin read a letter she sent to Fenwick administrators in December 2021 that detailed the alleged abuse, calling for a full investigation and asking for Quinn to be fired from his job.
The Oak Park Police Department confirmed that Pasin filed a police report with authorities last year and said the report was sent to the state’s attorney’s office, which declined to press charges. Pasin, in her video, and a police report completed late in 2021 both indicated charges could not be pursued because the statute of limitations had expired.
According to a September 2021 police report, Pasin was made to feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions around Quinn, and she alleged that “Quinn was overly aggressive with her and would put his arm around her neck with such force it would pull her body closer to his. [Pasin] further related Quinn would put his face directly next to her face, ultimately making cheek to cheek contact with her.”
In one incident, which occurred in the school’s basement after a school-sanctioned meeting Pasin was leading, Quinn allegedly hugged her and made comments that made Pasin uncomfortable, including “what is your love life like?” and “you are so beautiful.”
“[Pasin] related she stated to Quinn that she was not interested in love or relationships like that and Quinn replied back to her, ‘Well we should change that,’” the police report says.
Fenwick officials said Quinn remained in his teaching job through at least March 30, when the Landmark first reported the allegations. A school spokesman subsequently confirmed that Quinn has been placed on administrative leave.
Rev. Richard Peddicord, who is Fenwick’s president, said that while Quinn was at work March 30, he was “not in the building” late last year while Oak Park police conducted their investigation. Peddicord also added that the school’s probe into Quinn’s behavior was ongoing.
Peddicord did not comment further, instead referring to a statement he released on the night of March 29, apparently addressing Pasin’s video.
“As some of you know, [last week] a Fenwick alumna posted a video detailing her experience as a student at Fenwick and our handling of a serious matter involving a faculty member,” the statement reads. “Please be assured that we took, and are taking, her allegations seriously and the inquiry into the incidents she describes is ongoing.”
In the statement, Peddicord also says the school had been in contact with Oak Park police and that the school had offered Pasin an opportunity to participate in a school investigation, something that was a point of contention with Pasin in her video.
Pasin said she felt bullied after a lawyer representing the school asked to speak with her last year, and she added that once she approached the school with her own attorney, the school “ghosted” her for two months before reaching out last week to conduct an interview, an opportunity Pasin said she declined. She called the school’s initial investigation inadequate and said it was “disappointing” and “immensely triggering.”
Peddicord did not respond to a request for follow-up comments this week.
‘Weird behavior’ not taken seriously, accusers say
Pasin spoke to the Landmark this week regarding her allegation, the attention that has arrived at her doorstep since the release of the video and the school’s response to her report. The Landmark also spoke to a second former student who said she complained to a school counselor about Quinn’s behavior but was ignored.
Pasin said she spoke with her family immediately after the incident in the high school’s basement and considered reporting it to school administrators but declined to do so after Quinn was fired from his boys basketball coaching job, something Pasin believed was connected to an unrelated incident with a different student. Pasin said she assumed Quinn would not return to teaching either and she could put the incident behind her.
Fenwick has never commented specifically on why Quinn was fired as boys basketball coach.
“One night in 2019, my family was having dinner and my dad and my brothers were sharing fun stories from high school, and I just burst out crying because I felt like it hit me in the face that it wasn’t my experience and I felt like it wasn’t fair,” Pasin said. “I just burst out crying about this and it woke me up that this isn’t going to go away.”
Pasin and the second former student, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Landmark about the “arm thing” Quinn would do frequently with students, where he would hug them unannounced as they walked into his classroom. Pasin did not have Quinn as a teacher but said that when Quinn would see her walking past in the hallway, he would often leave his classroom, call out to her and do the “arm thing.”
“Everyone just accepted this behavior from him,” Pasin said. “The times where he didn’t do it to me [when I walked past his classroom], I most always saw him doing it to someone else.”
In her video, Pasin claimed Quinn’s habit of hugging her tightly was not unique to her and said that Quinn’s “arm thing,” which she called his “signature move,” was so widely known that students imitating Quinn in an annual school stage revue would act out the hug and headlock. Pasin added that Quinn “has harmed other people, and the school is well aware of his bad actions.”
“He grabs students in front of the whole Fenwick community and even to the point where he’s famous for it,” Pasin told the Landmark. “It’s against the law to do that so he’s breaking the law in plain sight and a lot of people don’t think it’s a big deal.”
The other former student the Landmark spoke with echoed that sentiment. She said she did not experience the kind of physical harassment Pasin described but said she was familiar with the “arm thing.”
The former student, who had Quinn as a teacher and graduated from the school in 2015, said Quinn made comments to her in class that made her uncomfortable, telling her in one incident that she wasn’t going to be able to understand a concept he was teaching because she “grew up without a father.” When she reported those comments to a school counselor, she felt they were not taken seriously.
“I reported that to my counselor and she said, ‘That’s kind of how he is,’” she said. “I told her that and it was just not really taken seriously at all.”
In Peddicord’s statement, he asked that anyone else with concerns contact Fenwick administrators. Peddicord’s statement did not mention Quinn or Pasin by name.
“The safety of the young people entrusted to our care is of the utmost importance to us,” Peddicord’s statement reads. “If anyone feels he or she has suffered abuse or other misconduct at Fenwick, we ask them to come forward with any information and to receive the help and healing they deserve.”
Peddicord said the school has received numerous responses to his March 29 statement.
“We have gotten a whole lot of commentary, and we’ve got to figure out which of them would rise to the level of being part of any further investigation,” he said.
Pasin cautioned against students cooperating with the Fenwick investigation, feeling that school officials were still not engaging in the process openly, and recommended that any other accusers contact the police.
Pasin also was not encouraged by the fact that Quinn had apparently been placed on leave but left the door open for Fenwick to do what she felt was right and terminate Quinn from his teaching job.
“I don’t trust Fenwick to fire him because this teacher has probably been put on leave so many times,” she told the Landmark. “If they fired him that would totally exceed my expectations. The history with him does not suggest they would fire him so if they did, I would be very happy and very grateful that I did everything I could to get a dangerous teacher out of the school. But I’m so weary because they have protected him for so long.”