Some staff allegedly knew about the guard’s relationship with a student but never reported it.
A federal lawsuit claims that a security guard at an Illinois high school had sex with female students, despite staff potentially having knowledge of the man’s inappropriate behavior.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the 22-page lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division on Tuesday. The complaint concerns the 3,600-student campus at Evanston Township High School, which falls several miles outside Chicago city proper.
Evanston, adds the Sun-Times, just settled another suit which accused a drama teacher of abusing male students in the 1970s and 1980s.
The current complaint names several guards who allegedly had sexual relationships with female students at Evanston. One of the accused, Michael B. Haywood, was arrested in February on suspicion of sexual abuse.
While Haywood was the only guard arrested amidst the scandal, the suit claims there are more victims—and more perpetrators, too.
The girl behind the litigation accuses Haywood, 34, of “grooming” another student between 2018 and 201. The student was 17 at the time and claims that Haywood engaged in “unwanted and unauthorized sexual and other contact” at least 40 times, with several incidents taking place on Evanston’s campus.
Haywood purportedly began targeting the plaintiff in the lawsuit as well as several other girls almost immediately after he was hired by Evanston in 2018. The school didn’t inform parents of the allegations against Haywood when it fired him the following winter.
The defendants, per the Sun-Times, include the high school—District 202—and the city of Evanston itself.
Lead attorney Andrew M. Stroth says that Haywood’s predation appears to have been an “open secret” among school staff. Some employees may have known for months about Haywood’s inappropriate relations with students but didn’t step forward to confront him or report any ongoing or past abuse.
According to Stroth, there may have been other guards similarly abusing their positions of authority.
“There are three that we know of for sure,” he said. “But our belief is that there are even more.”
The Associated Press and Sun-Times note that there are some 50 suspected inappropriate interactions between other guards and students.
Evanston’s last abuse lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount. In an announcement corresponding with the settlement, Evanston Township Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said the district was putting aside $100,000 to improve programs “that address sexual assault awareness, reporting and prevention.”
“The school district reemphasizes its empathy for any individuals that may have been victimized and is grateful a resolution could be reached that benefits ETHS students and the greater Evanston school community,” Witherspoon said.
That settlement allowed Evanston to deny wrongdoing. The accused drama teacher was never charged and continues to deny ever abusing anyone.