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Lawsuit: District 227 officials covered up abuse by superintendent’s nephew

Flanked by her lawyers, Kelly Krauchun and Dan Herbert, former Rich South High School administrator Adrienne LaCour speaks to reporters about her lawsuit, claiming she lost her job because she reported a student’s allegations of abuse at the hands of a fellow student, the nephew of District 227 Supt. Johnnie Thomas. | Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

Flanked by her lawyers, Kelly Krauchun and Dan Herbert, former Rich
South High School administrator Adrienne LaCour speaks to reporters about her lawsuit, claiming she lost her job because she reported a student’s allegations of abuse at the hands of a fellow student, the nephew of District 227 Supt. Johnnie Thomas. | Andy Grimm for the Sun-Times

A former Rich South High School administrator says she lost her job after she reported accusations from a girl who said she had been abused and threatened by the nephew of the district superintendent, according to a civil lawsuit.

Former Rich South Associate Principal Adrienne LaCour said District 227 Supt. Johnnie Thomas told her last March she was one of the best administrators in the district, and that he hoped she would return for the next school year.

Two weeks later, LaCour spoke to a girl who had recently transferred from Rich Central in Olympia Fields to Rich South in Richton Park. LaCour said the girl told her administrators had her switch schools because she had been threatened and abused by her boyfriend. The boy, she said, was Thomas’ nephew, the lawsuit says. LaCour called in counselors for the student and reported the alleged abuse to her principal, who in turn reported it to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Soon after, LaCour found out Thomas had started interviewing prospective replacements for LaCour, and last May the school board hired someone else for her job. LaCour, who found a new job with a school district in Kankakee for this year, filed her whistleblower lawsuit against Thomas and the district in February.

“As an administrator, it’s my duty to put children first,” LaCour told reporters Tuesday at a press conference at her lawyer’s West Loop office. “When I decided to put the child first, I was retaliated against.

“If a district is truly about doing what’s right by children then they are going to do what’s right by all children, and they’re not going to select and they’re not going to pick which ones they want to [do] right by.”

As a school employee, LaCour was required to report abuse and neglect of children to school officials and authorities, but, she said, staff at Rich Central did not report the abuse and threats the 16-year-old girl had endured. LaCour said the teen showed her threatening emails she received from the 18-year-old boyfriend, including one that said “I love you but I will still beat you (expletive).”

Thomas’ nephew was not disciplined for his misconduct, LaCour said.

“It was pretty much swept under the rug as a courtesy to the superintendent,” said her lawyer, Dan Herbert, who said LaCour was “the one person who did what we would want our administrators to do, what our administrators are required to do.”

In a statement, District 227 officials denied retaliating against LaCour.

“…The alleged incident had already been investigated, following school district protocol, in December 2017. At that time, a law enforcement officer spoke with the students involved and their parents, and no charges were filed.,” the statement read.

“The school board is confident that all proper processes and procedures were followed throughout this process. The board has retained legal counsel and will fight the allegations. In doing so, we aim to protect the students, families and taxpayers of our school district.”

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages.