“So, Jeff! If you’re convinced this is the best possible outcome for Christine and Emily, why did you get involved?”
Because like most of you, “Christine,” “Emily’s” mother, didn’t understand how the Kane County justice system really “works.” That’s not a judgement! Even after covering the players and dozens of cases in 13 years, there are times the process continues to baffle me.
To wit, even with that lengthy reporting resume, I still had to reach out to a number of experts to get the story straight.
“Regular” people don’t understand that, especially in cases involving juveniles, the Sheriff won’t necessarily bring charges, the state’s attorney may choose not to prosecute, and going before a judge is always a complete crapshoot, especially the family court variety.
The second problem was a too-typical lack of communication between law enforcement and a very concerned mother. Christine said the first time she heard the diversion program included a no contact order was after doing a segment on ABC 7 news, and she didn’t realize the Sheriff’s office was monitoring the offender’s social media and cell phone use until I told her.
Of course, Rich Wistocki and Sheriff Ron Hain told me they explained absolutely everything to Christine.
But I refuse to point fingers here because it would be utterly pointless. Ever since a disgruntled and mentally ill plaintiff murdered Chicago federal Judge Joan Lefkow’s father and husband in 2005, I’ve been advocating for a justice system social service arm that would facilitate communications between officers, prosecutors, judges and crime victims.
I understand budgetary constraints are always an issue, but trust me, that kind of intervention would save the taxpayers a ton of money in mitigated lawsuits alone.
The closest thing to that possibility was the State’s Attorneys Victim’s Rights unit, but they were disbanded in 2018 when State’s Attorney Joe McMahon was so busy with the Cook County Jason Van Dyke prosecution that his office lost the grant funding that program.
As a result of a miscommunication with Sheriff Hain, Christine thought she couldn’t go the Geneva middle school and get the offender removed from Emily’s team. She errantly believed that if she mentioned this boy’s name to anyone, she could be sued by his parents.
While that’s certainly true for outing a minor on social media, D304 administrators are similarly bound by privacy rules and the district’s burden of proof in harassment cases is not nearly beyond any reasonable doubt. They’ll always err on the side of caution.
So sadly, Emily had to see this boy every day in seventh grade, and as you might imagine, that did nothing to heal her emotional state. Christine has since gone to the school board and appropriate administrators to ensure things will be different in eighth grade.
A judge also told me to encourage Christine to start talking with the Geneva High School resource officer now, so he’ll be better prepared to deal with the issue next year.
Though I’m certainly sold on BeSure Consulting’s efforts, I’d like to see the Sheriff and Wistocki amend the program such that the appropriate school administrators are notified so they can immediately and effectively deal with the issue. I’d also like to see a judicial oversight element much like there is in Kane County’s successful Drug Court.
I’m not talking about parents having to pay all sorts of legal fees and fines, but much like that annual drug court graduation, it would be a big plus if a judge got to make the final pronouncement on the offender’s status.
And when I used the word “outcome” here, it’s much more of a noun than verb. There is no happy ending to this story. Even if one of the parties moves away, given the glories of the Internet, the cyber sexual harassment could start up again at any time. I don’t think that’ll be the case, but no mother on the planet could completely dismiss that possibility.
In the end, the main reason I wrote this three-part series is Wistocki’s and my belief that the underlying cause of cyberstalking is a complete lack of parental oversight. Silly me! I thought putting my sons’ computer in the family room was the height of fatherly responsibility, but if I had to do it over again, I would’ve installed the very same monitoring software that now resides on Emily’s new cellphone.
First, 20 percent of 10- to 17-year old girls will receive some sort of online sexual solicitation and that number is growing on a daily basis. Ironically, we’re still focused on the whole stranger danger thing while the real predators are coming directly into their bedroom through an ever-expanding capacity for instant communication.
And second, there’s the far more terrifying prospect that it could be our son or daughter who’s doing the cyberbullying. As previously stipulated, I fervently believe this revelation has rocked this boy’s family to their very core. The problem is that none of us want to believe our son or daughter is capable of this kind of destructive behavior.
When a boy asked an attorney friend’s 11-year-old daughter if he could text her, she said “Sure, but my mother reads all my texts,” and that was the end of it. After her daughter explained that interaction, her mother hired Wistocki to come out and set them up with all the necessary monitoring software and apps.
If you have similar doubts, I would encourage you to give BeSure Consulting a call because law enforcement simply can’t keep up with cyberstalking in all it’s various and expanding forms. As is always the case, I received no consideration for that recommendation.
Lastly, please tell your children not to give out theirs, or any classmate’s cellphone number to anyone who asks. And please be sure your sons, and especially your daughters, know that, if they do receive harassing texts or online messages, it’s not their fault and they can come to you with it.
As previously stipulated, I’ve written columns on more than 1,000 subjects, but none has thrown me off as much as this one has. If, thirteen years ago, you told me Wistocki would be doing sexting and sexual harassment presentations to fifth graders, I would’ve insisted that your significant other lock up the liquor cabinet.
Put more simply, I’m starting to think the Amish are really onto something.