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By Pat Pratt
Attorneys for a student who was sexually harassed by a former teacher and attorneys for the Triad Board of Education have reached a tentative settlement in a civil case over the harassment. Details of the tentative settlement as of press time, however, remained under seal and would not be final until approved by the board of education.
The case of John Doe v. Board of Education of Triad Community Unit School District 2 was set for jury trial May 22 at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis. Court records show a notice of settlement was filed April 24, which vacated the upcoming trial date and any other pending hearings.
Attorneys for both parties were asked for comment on the settlement and neither responded. Judge Stephen P. McGlynn following the tentative settlement issued a 45-day order to give the parties time to finalize associated documents. His order requires the court clerk by June 9 to enter a judgment of dismissal.
Any tentative settlement will need to be approved by the Triad Board of Education. The board does not meet until 6:30 p.m. May 22 and the agenda has not yet been posted. Any vote on the potential settlement would also likely take place in closed session.
District Superintendent Dr. Jason Henderson said until the board votes, he is unable to comment and would provide an update when he is able to.
“Nothing regarding any settlement has been finalized at this point from the district’s perspective,” Henderson said. “Until our Board of Education would have the opportunity to vote on any settlement, which there is currently no date set for, I am not able to make any sort of comment or statement.”
Even after approval of the tentative settlement, however, the district would be limited in any statement it makes due to student privacy laws.
“As a side note, even after a settlement would be finalized, the district and Board of Education will be extremely limited in the comments we can make involving current or former students, because Illinois and Federal law protect student privacy, which Triad takes very seriously,” Henderson said.
The potential settlement comes just weeks after the former teacher at the crux of the litigation was dismissed from the lawsuit. Following mediation, John Doe on March 14 filed a stipulation of dismissal of Erin Garwrod with prejudice, meaning she can not be named as a party again in the civil case.
Garwood in June of 2021 pleaded guilty to harassment through electronic communication of Doe. She was sentenced to 12 months of probation, ordered to pay $2,000 to the Madison County Child Advocacy Center as restitution, and undergo sex-offender evaluation and treatment. She was originally charged with indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 2 felony, and grooming, a Class 4 felony.
The criminal case began in May 2019, when an administrator heard rumors about Garwood having relations with underage male students, according to court documents. The administrator reported the rumor to the school resource officer, who subsequently questioned Doe.
Doe originally denied the allegations, according to a statement of facts listed in the complaint. He claims to have denied the allegation because he did not know he was underage and unable to consent. He also was allegedly in fear he was in trouble with the school.
Later, Doe would complete an interview with forensic psychologists and admitted Garwood sent him inappropriate Snapchat messages and photographs, court documents show. Doe claims the harassment began when he was in eighth grade. At that time, Garwood was a science teacher at Triad Middle School.
Garwood resigned following the investigation. The Illinois State Board of Education in April of 2020 revoked her educator license.