John Steinert, Illinois principal who "sexted" a college student, resigns over harassment charges

John Steinert
WBBM/Gurnee Police
John Steinert
WBBM/Gurnee Police

(CBS/WBBM) LAKE FOREST, Ill. - An Illinois middle school principal who pleaded guilty to harassment after "sexting" a college student, resigned Sunday in response to a wave of controversy over the incident.

Deer Path Middle School Principal John Steinert pleaded guilty in 2009 to harassment by electronic media, after using a school cell phone to send dozens of unwanted and sexually explicit texts, voice messages and photos of himself to a 22-year-old Lake Forest Police Department intern, reports CBS Chicago.

Despite an investigation by Superintendent Harry Griffith, Steinert reportedly remained in his role as principal until the nature of the messages was revealed last week by the Chicago Tribune and various other media outlets.

According to reports last week, Steinert sent the woman a picture of his penis, and left voice mails and texts that suggested sex acts he wanted to perform with her and asked her about pornography and sex toys, reports CBS Chicago. Steinert reportedly continued even after the woman asked him to leave her alone. She finally contacted police in Gurnee, where she lived, reports last week said.

According to the Tribune, the district admonished Steinert in a letter, ordered him to counseling and temporarily froze his salary, but officials say the district expanded his job duties and gave him a bonus within the next year.

Now some parents, outraged by the way the district handled the incident, are calling for the superintendent's resignation as well. 

The Lake Forest School District 67 board gathered for a hastily convened meeting and accepted the principal's resignation, reports CBS Chicago.

"I'm embarrassed to call you my school board members," parent Michael Beacham said.

"Either there's been gross incompetence or there's been a cover-up. In either case, it's just unacceptable," he reportedly told reporters.

The superintendent, Griffith, said he won't resign, claiming initially he only saw a redacted version of the police report.

Previously, "we had information that this was about texting between two adults," Griffith told reporters, CBS Chicago reports. "When we actually saw the real material was just three days ago, we realized it was more about sexting, and that was heinous behavior."