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Lawsuit filed against Special Education District of Lake County on behalf of special needs student who was sexually assaulted by teacher’s aide

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (March 3, 2020) – Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard has filed a lawsuit against the Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL) on behalf of a mentally disabled adult student who was sexually abused by a teacher’s aide.

From 2016 until 2018, “Jane Doe” attended a SEDOL school in Grayslake as part of their “Community Based Transition Program,” designed for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. During that time, Jane Doe was assigned to a classroom with one teacher and two teacher’s aides.

In late 2019, Jane Doe told a family member she was sexually abused on multiple occasions by Israel Suaste-Gonzalez, one of the teacher’s aides assigned to her classroom. The family member alerted Jane’s parents, who then contacted police, prompting a criminal investigation.

During police questioning, Gonzalez initially denied the allegations, but later admitted to abusing Jane on at least five occasions in a conference room attached to Jane’s classroom. In one instance, Jane had to use the conference room to change, as both bathrooms at the school were occupied. Gonzalez admitted to watching her while she was undressing.

The abuse continued “many, many times” throughout the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years. After forcing Jane to perform multiple non-consensual sexual acts, Gonzalez would reportedly warn her “not to tell anyone about what he had done.”

In December of 2019, Gonzalez was arrested and charged with multiple counts of felony aggravated criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

On March 3, 2020, Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard filed a civil lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Lake County, Ill. against SEDOL and the teacher and teacher’s aide assigned to Jane’s classroom. The lawsuit alleges SEDOL recklessly failed to enforce its policy that male teachers should never be alone with female students for any amount of time, recklessly failed to have a sufficient number of personnel on staff, failed to adequately train staff about the prevention of sexual abuse, and improperly allowed a male to supervise a female student change her clothes. As a result of SEDOL’s reckless conduct, Jane was subjected to repeated sexual abuse.

“On several occasions, Jane Doe’s teacher asked where Jane and Mr. Gonzalez had been when they were late for the bus. Based on this and other suspicious behavior, SEDOL should have suspected Mr. Gonzalez was sexually abusing our client and done their due diligence. Instead, they recklessly continued to allow our client to be alone with Mr. Gonzalez for prolonged periods of time,” Plaintiff’s attorney Patrick A. Salvi said. “It isn’t easy to report sexual abuse, especially when the abuser is in a position of power. Unfortunately, this innocent young lady has suffered severe emotional distress from these horrific acts. We strongly believe SEDOL is responsible for her being victimized.”

Jane Doe’s attorneys are available for interviews.  Please contact Marcie Mangan at mmangan@salvilaw.com or (312) 372-1227 to set up an interview or obtain more information.

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Case No. 20 L 00000131 [JOHN and JUDY DOE, as Co-Guardians of JANE DOE, a disabled adult, Plaintiffs, vs. SPECIAL EDUCATION DISTRICT OF LAKE COUNTY, a Local Public School District, SHARON HEFLER, Individually, BEVERLY LYNN WOLFE, Individually, and ISRAEL SUASTE-GONZALEZ, Individually, Defendants.]

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