Band teacher out #MeToo at Downers Grove North

Community High School District 99 in Downers Grove, Illinois, accepted the resignation of a veteran band director at a special board meeting Monday amid allegations that he sexually harassed students about 20 years ago, ABC 7 in Chicago reports.

William Miller, who began working in the district in 1995, resigned voluntarily and agreed to forfeit his teaching license and never again work as a teacher in a K-12 setting.

A former female student at Downers Grove North High School in Chicago’s western suburbs, identified only as “Jane Doe” in a lawsuit filed against the school district and Mr Miller, says he also “provided alcohol to minor female DGN students … in furtherance of his engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior.” Her lawyer said this “had an impact on her life”:

“One of the things that she hopes to bring about is a change and prevent this from happening to another student in the future—change in policies, change in procedures, a change in culture,” the Daily Herald quoted Daniel Biederman Jr, her attorney, as saying.

Downers Grove police haven’t filed any charges yet in the investigation, which began last month when allegations of Mr Miller engaging “in inappropriate sexual behavior with female DGN students” emerged on social media to describe a period from 1996 to 2000. The investigation is ongoing, however, and the district said it’s cooperating with law enforcement.

“If we ever receive information about the inappropriate conduct of a staff member, we always take action,” district spokesperson Jill Browning told ABC 7. In a memo to the district, Superintendent Hank Thiele said the district did investigate the complaints but had only “limited information available.”

Excerpt of the social media allegations

Posted on November 20

I was lucky enough to go to a rich high school with a great band and theater program, and I was heavily involved in both—yes, I know how to play the bassoon and work both a sound and light board (at least ones from the 90s), something current friends might be surprised about. Unfortunately, the assistant band director, who was also in charge of the auditorium crew technicians, used his position of power to take advantage of me and my classmates. As a lot of you know, last week I started an email address with a friend: DGNnightwatchwomen@gmail.com. We have received information about this teacher from women with graduation years spanning 16 years, with reports of him making lewd and suggestive comments all the way to sexual assault.

Some of these women are in the process of obtaining legal representation and telling family members and close friends what’s about to happen in their lives, in order to line up the support they’re going to need for this journey they never wanted to take. I’m so proud and in awe of their bravery, including all the mental, emotional, and logistical work they’ve already done to make this important decision. Hopefully, most of you will never know their identities. But they’re out there, among us.

What strikes me as I listen to the stories that have been shared with me is how long it takes people, and perhaps women in particular, to come to terms with sexual manipulation they’ve experienced from men at an early age. Do you remember the first inappropriate comment you received? The one that made you simultaneously realize that you are a woman now, and panic because you didn’t know what to say back? At that moment, many of us said many different things. This man not only forced that moment onto his students, but he then used it and the moments that followed to shame women into being complicit in his pedophilia.

And sometimes, he didn’t even have to: in order to deal with the stress of these kinds of situations, especially if we still come into contact with the person who inflicted them on us, many of us tell ourselves stories about what happened that ultimately let these men off the hook. So far it has taken the women affected at least an entire week to even be able to see that this man (who has a family and who has accomplished so much through the affluence and influence of the high school) has no real power over them anymore.

But then, once they crack open the vault where all the pain, shame, and doubt was hiding, they realize that they REFUSE to continue to be shamed by HIS actions, and they are determined to make him take responsibility. Not because of some kind of personal retribution, but because they don’t want any more students and recent grads telling themselves the things they always told themselves about why the teacher picked them, why they responded the way they did, who was suspicious and what they thought, and the list goes on.

If you too have been affected by this man, go tell a trusted friend or email us. Then reach out to the other woman you heard “rumors” about between her and this man when you were a student. Chances are, you two will have familiar stories to tell each other. Don’t be afraid, because after you get over feeling like you want to puke and shoot someone, you are going to feel better. We’re taking back the power, and you’re in the club even if you never even get in touch. (But please do, because we can use your help and support.)

And if you didn’t go to my high school but you feel like I COULD be talking about yours, don’t wait. Start reaching out and telling people that you care, it’s not their fault, and that they’re not alone.

Thanks for listening and sharing.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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