EDITORIAL: Naperville teen deserved better from his school and police

SHARE EDITORIAL: Naperville teen deserved better from his school and police

A dean and police officer assigned to Naperville North High School questioned 16-year-old Corey Walgren about a possible sex video on his phone Jan. 11. Later that day, Walgren jumped to his death from a nearby parking garage. | Sun-Times file photo

Corey Walgren should have had his mother or father at his side on the day his high school dean and a police officer questioned him about a possible sex video on his phone.

He needed an adult on his side. Somebody who would protect his rights, be his advocate and look out for his emotional well-being.

That did not happen, not when it counted. And now Corey is dead. Just 16 years old, he committed suicide.


Corey Walgren | Daily Herald photo

Corey Walgren | Daily Herald photo

On Wednesday, it was reported that the Naperville Police had completed an internal investigation that cleared the police officer assigned to the school, Brett Heun, of any wrongdoing. Officials at Naperville District 203 also say their staff followed the rules.

But we cannot imagine that any parent would readily agree. Not if it were their kid who was questioned by authorities on such a serious matter before they even were called.

For those first 18 minutes, according to the Chicago Tribune, Corey was forced to face questions alone from Heun and Dean Stephen Madden. Only then did they call his parents.

A little later that day, a few minutes after the officer and the dean took Corey to an office waiting area at the school to wait for his mother, he walked out of the school and to a nearby parking garage. He jumped from the fifth floor.

Lawyers will argue about the school and police officer’s legal liability. But as a matter of common sense, this is not complicated. Before interrogating a minor child about such a possible crime, the school and officer should have waited at least until a parent was contacted. The officer and the dean eventually called Corey’s mother and spoke to her via speakerphone with her son present. That call should have been set up before they said a word to Corey.

We also question the veracity of the police department’s “internal investigation.” Investigators didn’t bother to interview Corey’s mother, Maureen. Their failure to do so suggests the department’s investigation was not thorough or unbiased.

Corey’s parents allege in a lawsuit that the police and the school district acted unlawfully by not immediately making an effort to reach them before questioning their son. The police, for their part, point out that Corey was never in custody. As if that would matter to a frightened 16-year-old boy.

In that first meeting, the officer and the dean wanted to know if Corey had shown friends a video of a consensual sexual encounter he’d had with a classmate. According to records reviewed by the Tribune, Corey was cooperative and turned over a recording that the police described as “more of only audio.”

Maureen Walgren told the Trib that while on speakerphone with the officer, and with her son in the room, Heun said her son was being investigated for “child pornography” and could be placed on a sex offender registry. Incredibly scary stuff.

The police reportedly did not intend to charge Corey. They just wanted him to understand the seriousness of his actions.

“I think they wanted to scare him straight,” Maureen Walgren told the Tribune. “Instead, they scared him to death.”

Nobody will ever know if a phone call could have made a difference.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

The Latest
With accessibility at the forefront of its work, MAPPED aims to “democratize information” about design projects around the city.
The coach has been saying since the start of the season that this year was going to be even “harder than last.’’ Friday’s overtime loss in Oklahoma City was evidence of that, as Donovan is still trying to get his players to buy into the new-look offense.
The Oscar- and Grammy-winning artist passed away in her Florida home, her publicist announced via statement.
Hendrickson is confident in the culture he instilled during the 2022 season.
Bet on it: Fields has quickly increased Bears’ popularity with bettors