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West Aurora High School District In Trouble With DCFS Over Abusive Band Teacher

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- The West Aurora High School District is in trouble with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services over an allegation involving a teacher.

As WBBM Newsradio's Bob Conway reports, the DCFS says the district violated the law when it did not immediately notify the agency about a report the school's band director had inappropriate contact with a student, according to the Chicago Tribune.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Bob Conway reports


Stephen Orland was subsequently pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges involving two students and is now serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors said Orland, who knew the girls since they were freshmen at West Aurora High School, sent them thousands of texts and dropped notes and letters in their lockers during school. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he arranged to meet the girls in a band storage room on separate occasions, where he abused them.

The Tribune reports the DCFS has now turned the matter over to the Kane County State's Attorney's office, and the district has hired lawyers to represent three staff members.

Last month, the district stood by its earlier investigation and its decision not to notify the DCFS, as 2 Investigator Dave Savini reported that Orland could have been stopped long before his arrest in May 2011.

Leon Smith, a now-retired custodian at West Aurora High School, said he tried to stop Steve Orland a year before he was arrested.

Smith, who had been employed at the school for nearly 30 years, said he tried to do the right thing, and said he reported seeing Orland with a female student.

Smith said he caught Orland with a student in a storage room for the band. He said the lights were out; Orland had the girl up against a wall, and his hands were near her chest

"I said 'what's going on?'" said Smith. "I was shocked to see Steve Orland over there, and he just – boom – took off running."

Smith said the girl started fixing her blouse.

Smith reported what he saw to school officials in July 2010. Instead of calling police or the DCFS, school administrators decided to conduct their own investigation.

School District 179 Supt. James Rydland never talked to Smith, but said the custodian did not report seeing any touching. After the investigation was over, Rydland did meet with Orland, but never asked him if he touched the student.

The investigation was led by Dan Bridges, former principal of West Aurora High School. He and district officials decided police and DCFS did not need to be called.

"There was no physical contact," said Rydland. "The information was that there was nothing that would rise to the occasion that would require mandated reporting."

Instead Orland was given a warning about being alone in that band storage room with a student. Sources said the superintendent and principal kept that warning a secret even from the assistant principal, who said he should have been told.

Criminal court records show, in the year following this warning, Orland was allowed to give dozens of hall passes to girls to get them alone. He also was allowed to go on an overnight band trip, where he had sexual relations with a student.

Nearly a year after Smith's reporting, Orland was caught in the same band room with a student and, this time, was arrested.

After catching Orland, the district made some security changes, including adding more security cameras. They also are in the process of making more changes following the CBS 2 investigation.

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