Perhaps it’s time to stop saying, “In thirteen years of authoring over two-thousand columns, I thought I’d seen it all,” because King Solomon was clearly wrong! There is always something new under the journalistic sun, and sadly, the problem with that philosophical postulate is those regular revelations are rarely of a positive nature.
And that’s certainly the case here. Graphic sexual harassment and stalking in sixth grade? I had difficulty just typing that sentence. I know every generation laments their successors will be the ones to bring about civilization’s downfall, but I’m really starting to think this group might be it.
But before we get into it, I want to be clear that the Geneva School District did nothing wrong. They were completely unaware of this situation until very recently and the School Board’s response since then has been excellent. We’ll get into the reason for that in part two.
And as much as I’d like to find the “villain” in what will likely be a three-part series, there is none. Former Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer comes closest for dropping the ball when the case initially reached his desk, but everyone knew he’d checked out long before his single term ended.
The current Sheriff, Ron Hain, did take the bull by the horns when it became his problem, but to say that shunting a juvenile offender off into a “diversion program” run by a consultant with no judicial oversight made me “nervous” would be the most massive of understatements.
Considering he hired Elgin City Councilman Corey Dixon to do a job for which he is eminently unqualified, I wondered if there was some quid-pro-quo here, too.
But when I spoke with former Naperville Police Detective and BeSure Consulting owner, Rich Wistocki, I was impressed with his mission, his program, and his success rate. Not to mention that a number of local judges and attorneys had nothing negative to say about him which is a real rarity in our beyond incestuous criminal justice system.
Then there’s an amazingly persistent mother who’s doing her damndest to protect her daughter. But when you’re faced with a complicated crime like this one, and you don’t begin to understand the vast intricacies and fascinating personalities that permeate the Kane County Judicial Center, you start feeling like the best you can do is tread water.
There’s also a young boy who, having likely learned this behavior from a sibling and/or the Net, has decided to address his own pain by inflicting even more pain on someone else. The kneejerk response, especially for any father of any daughter, would be to vilify him or worse, but what purpose would that serve? There will always be predators.
Though the point often gets lost, at the very core of our criminal justice system is the belief that, with rare exception, human beings can be rehabilitated. And that should be especially true of middle schoolers.
Unless they’re beyond dysfunctional, I’m sure this boy’s family is mortified by this hard-to-comprehend rude awakening. I know I was shocked when I read the texts, so I can only imagine their hearts sinking directly through the floor. None of us want to believe our sixth-grade son is capable of this kind of misogynistic stalking.
But the worst part is, the least culpable person in all this, an innocent 13-year-old girl, is the one who’s suffering the most. We know life isn’t fair but talk about having to learn that difficult lesson at an absurdly young age! I’ve met and spoken with this young woman and I’m convinced she’ll become stronger for it, but that’s a very small solace when you see your daughter in that kind of pain.
I also know the names of all the people involved, but no responsible journalist would out a juvenile offender unless they were tried as an adult, and, in the end, the names are immaterial. It’s the story that matters. So, let’s start covering this cautionary tale.
For our purposes, we’ll refer to this then 12-year-old girl as “Emily,” and we’ll call her mother “Christine.”
The series of graphic texts started June 7, 2018 while the family was on vacation. Normally, Christine would’ve caught it immediately because she checks her daughter’s flip (not smart) phone on a daily basis. But we all relax the rules on vacation, so two days later, Christine was horrified to discover an unknown young male describing multiple scenarios in which her daughter was being repeatedly sodomized and sexually assaulted by a group of boys.
The reason Emily didn’t tell her mother right away is, when confronted with stalking of this insidious sexual nature, most sixth grade girls somehow believe it’s their fault and she was terrified of getting into serious trouble. When a frantic Christine asked her if she knew who this boy was, Emily started shaking and broke down sobbing.
So, they blocked that number and there were no more texts for a month.
But then they started up again from a different phone number. Christine tried to bait the boy into revealing who he was, or they were, but it didn’t work, so they blocked that one, too. After a third round of texts came from yet another number in August, Emily’s parents bought her a new phone and told her to only give the new number out to a select group of friends.
That may have ended the harassment, but the story was just beginning.
On Wednesday, we’ll delve into the Sheriff’s Office investigation, the consultant’s involvement, and the disposition of the case.