LINCOLN SQUARE — Parents at Waters Elementary in Lincoln Square are worried a former teacher accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl he once taught could get a light punishment if convicted — and they’re urging Cook County’s top prosecutors not to cut a deal.
Jason Gil, of the 3000 block of North Kostner Avenue, was a bilingual math teacher at Waters until his arrest earlier this year. He’s accused of molesting a Skokie girl he once taught and had continued to tutor outside of school.
Since his arrest, Gil has been held at Cook County Jail after being denied bond by Judge Anjana Hansen.
Ahead of Gil’s next hearing, over 150 parents, teachers and neighbors signed a petition asking Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to not offer him a plea deal for a reduced punishment.
“Some parents had attended the last hearing on June 27 for Mr. Gil and while we were in the hallway at the courthouse we heard the defense attorney and prosecutor talking about a possible plea deal,” said Eileen Favorite, a parent at Waters with children entering fourth and seventh grades. “That’s very disappointing and disturbing to the community.”
Parents at the school got together and decided to write a letter to Foxx and other city and county officials. The letter was sent out Thursday, and their petition is now online.
“CPS hasn’t really followed through letting the community know what is going on. So we as parents started following the case and going to hearings,” said Sol Hinami, a Waters parent with children going into second and fourth grades. “And while we were going to these hearings we saw that it looked like [Gil] may get a very light sentence.”
Hinami says Gil’s defense attorney has been arguing in court that the former teacher is a “well loved member of the community.”
“But the community doesn’t like pedophiles. We don’t want to be used as part of his defense so he can get a lenient sentence,” Hinami said.
The elementary school at 4540 N. Campbell Ave. serves 569 students and is known for its fine and performing arts, technology and ecology programs.
Gil was removed from his teaching position with CPS after he was taken into custody by Skokie Police on Feb. 10 on felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, solicitation to meet a child, solicitation of child pornography, possession of child pornography, distribution of harmful materials and grooming, according to the Sun-Times.
The 42-year-old is accused of starting to sexually abuse a 13-year-old student since at least 2017 and continuing to do so though 2019. Gil reportedly kissed the student in a classroom, asked her to send naked pictures of herself to him, and was engaged in “sexual activity” with the girl in his car and at her home when parents weren’t home over that two-year period, prosecutors say.
After his arrest earlier this year, Gil was removed from his teaching position and CPS’s Office of the Inspector General began its own investigation.
Emily Bolton, a CPS spokesperson, said its investigation is still ongoing and to the best of the district’s knowledge, the allegations do not involve a student currently enrolled at a CPS school.
“If we become aware of an allegation involving a student currently enrolled at CPS, the district will ensure it is fully investigated,” she said.
Representatives from the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said they understood the school community’s concern about the resolution of the case.
“The matter is pending litigation and we have not engaged in plea negotiations,” the statement said.
Barry Sheppard, Gil’s attorney, worries the letter parents are circulating will prejudice the public against his client in the early stages of trial proceedings.
“We haven’t even completed all of the discovery yet,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard said he is still trying to get Gil out on bond, and said he’s presented the court many letters of recommendation for him.
“He is a University of Chicago graduate and quite an accomplished person,” Sheppard said. “He’s been sitting in Cook County Jail and it’s been a very difficult time for him and his family.”
But parents at the school fear the outcome of Gil’s trial could set precedent for future instances of people charged with sexually abusing a child. And that’s why parents from the Waters community will continue to attend every hearing of Gil’s trial.
“We just want the prosecutor to take this seriously, even if it is just a first offense, and prosecute him to the fullest extent,” Waters parent Angie Schlater said.
Schlater has one child going into eighth grade and another in high school who had Gil as a teacher for three years at Waters.
“To Kim Foxx, we are paying attention and we want all kids at CPS to be protected and feel safe. We’ll be holding the state’s attorney accountable in this case,” she said.
Gil is expected to appear at the Skokie courthouse again on July 26.
Below is the letter sent to Kim Foxx on July 11.
July 11, 2019
Hon. Kim Foxx
Cook County State’s Attorney
69 W. Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602
We, the 150+ undersigned parents, teachers, and community members of Thomas J. Waters Elementary School, at 4540 N Campbell Avenue in Chicago, are writing to express our deep concern about the potentially light sentence for Jason Gil, a former math teacher. Gil faces charges that he groomed, sexually abused, and assaulted a student over a three-year period starting in her 6th-grade year (2016), when she was 12 and he was 41, and ending only with his arrest in early 2019. The charges include Gil’s kissing the victim in a CPS classroom, multiple sexual encounters with the young victim, and exchanges of naked photos with the victim. If found guilty on all charges, Gil could be sentenced to 21-60 years and be required to register as a child sex offender for the rest of his life.
We urge you to push for a sentence within that range, which includes lifetime child sex- offender registration.
We view this case as a test of the seriousness with which the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Cook County Judiciary, and other public officials treat the problem of sexual abuse within CPS. The case (#19CR03429) is now in Judge Aleksandra Gillespie’s court. Indictments include: two charges of criminal sexual assault, two charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, 12 counts of child pornography, one charge of grooming, and three charges of distributing harmful material to a minor. These charges are based on the age of the victim and the legal capacity for consent.
Given the reporting in 2018 of widespread sexual abuse within CPS, we know this is not an isolated case. Our group, “Protect CPS Students,” is so named because our concerns extend to all students in Chicago Public Schools. We have followed the case very closely, sending representatives to each court appearance.
We understand that the prosecution and defense are discussing a possible plea deal. We know plea deals are an important part of the justice system; we respect you, your office, and the prosecutors on your staff who work tirelessly to keep us safe. That said, Gil’s sentence must hold him to the highest standard of culpability and reflect the severity of his crimes against a child to whom he was a teacher, a mentor, and an authority figure.
We have great empathy for the victim and her family. There is no way to undo the trauma she, her family, and her friends will continue to endure, not to mention the trauma to Gil’s own children and family, and all the waves of harm rippling through our community, impacting both his former colleagues as well as the many students, and their families, who spent time in his classroom.
This is no ordinary case. Gil’s defense attorney has claimed that the sexual encounters between the victim and Gil – a man in his 40s – was consensual. This claim is loathsome and has no legal standing. In the wake of the Chicago Tribune’s “Betrayed” series last summer, it would be a grave mistake to set a low bar for the sentencing of a predatory CPS teacher. If a light sentence is handed down to the first teacher convicted since the problem was exposed, what message would it send to the children of Cook County? What message would it send to other potential predators?
Our uppermost concern is the safety of all CPS children. We want to know that an educator facing 20 felony charges for the abuse and assault of a minor student will not be walking the streets again in 18 months. Please be vigilant with this case for our children’s sake. We are paying attention.
Protect CPS Students
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