Two months after a teacher filed suit against Hales Franciscan High School, saying she was fired for reporting a sex incident on school grounds against the administration’s wishes, a second teacher has now been fired, citing the same reasons.
Former Social Studies teacher Stephen Jennings is also suing Hales, saying he was fired last week because he reported the same girl’s allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as is required by law. Jennings said he went to DCFS at the girls’s request, after she said the school was not doing enough.
“I felt as a teacher, and a man of God, that it was my responsibility to protect the young ladies and support them,” he said.
In his suit, Jennings alleged then-principal Erica Brownfield had even warned the staff not to say anything about the allegations.
“She had notified the teachers and all the staff that we were not to discuss this outside the building,” he said.
He said he and fellow instructor Rochelle Daniels felt they had no choice but to go to DCFS with the girl’s story, alleging she had been held down and groped by a group of boys in a Hales hallway. Daniels was fired in December, and said that shortly afterward, she started receiving vulgar texts from the boys involved in the alleged incident.
Hales president Jeffrey Gray declined comment on the latest suit, saying he had not seen it. But previously, he had maintained that he had not gone to authorities with what was thought to be a “sexting” incident because it was considered minor, and the school felt it was best handled in-house.
In his complaint, Jennings said Gray shoved him in a school office last Friday, then fired him after he went to police seeking to charge the administrator with battery.
A letter from Gray dated Feb. 24, states that Jennings was being fired for “refusal to minimally perform duties and repsonsibiltieis contained the Individual Teacher Employment Contract,” and for “flagrant non-compliance or willfully ignoring instructions and directives given by a senior administrator.”
“I just don’t understand all that they’re talking about,” Jennings said.
His attorney, Joel Handler, who is also representing Daniels in a suit against the school, suggested the school shirked its legal responsibilities in failing to report the incident in a timely manner.
“Hales wanted to sweep this under the rug,” Handler said. “They engaged in illegal conduct, because they were obligated to report this to DCFS and they didn’t do it.”
Chicago Police said in December they had closed their own investigation of the Hales matter, after the parents of the young woman involved declined to prosecute.