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Catholic school teacher sexually abused student in Pilsen classroom: prosecutors

St. Procopius School in Chicago. | Google Street View

A teacher at a Catholic junior high school in Pilsen has been charged with sexually abusing a 14-year-old student and also battery after she allegedly kissed a 13-year-old boy she tutored on multiple occasions.

Yesenia Rodriguez, 27, is charged with abusing the older boy several times in her classroom at St. Procopius School, 1625 S. Allport St., where she had taught since 2014, according to Cook County prosecutors and the Archdiocese of Chicago. The battery of the 13-year-old also occurred at the school, prosecutors said.

Judge David Navarro set Rodriguez’s bond at $1,000 during a hearing Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Yesenia Rodriguez | Chicago police
Yesenia Rodriguez | Chicago police

Rodriguez was suspended after her arrest and “will remain away from the school until the matter is resolved,” the archdiocese said in a statement.

Rodriguez, of West Town, was involved in a relationship with the 14-year-old student between June 2017 and May of last year, prosecutors said in court. The two began their relationship via email and video messaging in Google Hangouts.

Prosecutors said the boy was in the seventh and eighth grades during the time period and that she was his teacher when the abuse occurred.

Another teacher who works at St. Procopius told investigators they saw Rodriguez wearing the boy’s sweatshirt and ring at the school, but Rodriguez told them she had confiscated the items and did not want to lose them. The same teacher reported seeing the boy with Rodriguez in her classroom while the door was shut on about a dozen occasions, prosecutors said.

When her relationship with the 14-year-old ended, she began talking to a 13-year-old boy, who was not a student at the school, but would receive tutoring from Rodriguez at St. Procopius, prosecutors said. Rodriguez is accused of kissing the younger boy on several occasions while tutoring him.

Rodriguez was arrested Monday afternoon, according to Chicago police.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Gus Kostopoulos, said she denied all of the charges against her.

Multiple family members, including Rodriguez’s husband, attended the hearing Wednesday, but all declined to comment.

Kostopoulos told Judge Navarro that Rodriguez had no criminal background, was a lifelong resident of Chicago and that her family could afford to post $1,000 bond.

Navarro noted that Rodriguez’s communications with the boys as alleged by prosecutors could “be described as grooming,” but agreed to set her bond at $1,000.

Prosecutors had additionally asked that Rodriguez be put on electronic monitoring if she posted bond, but Navarro denied the request. Rodriguez will be required to surrender her passport and was ordered not to have contact with anyone under the age of 18 as the case continues.

The archdiocese learned of Rodriguez’s arrest from the Department of Child and Family Services.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and encourages anyone who feels they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee, to come forward,” it said in a statement.

Her next court date was scheduled for March 8.