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Round Lake district settles lawsuit alleging strip search

Family gets $35,000 from schools

ROUND LAKE – The family of a student who alleged he was strip-searched at Round Lake Middle School a couple of years ago has received $35,000 as part of a settlement with the school district.

Under the agreement's terms, the money must be used for the child's "future educational needs" and the district admits no wrongdoing.

Lake County Suburban Life obtained the settlement through a Freedom of Information Act request.

In 2012, the family filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Round Lake Area Schools, claiming the district violated his civil rights

Both sides agreed with what happened at first during fourth period on April 20, 2012: Assistant Principal Ray Porten escorted the 13-year-old boy out of class. He took the youth to a conference room with uncovered windows facing a hallway, with Principal Ryan Hawkins and an unidentified employee present.

The student was asked whether he had anything on him that didn't belong in school. He said he did not. He complied with a request to take off his shoes.

But the district denies what the family said happened after that. The boy claimed Porten then told him to lift up his shirt, which the 13-year-old did.

The boy then alleged that Porten further instructed him to pull down his pants and underwear and to lift up his genitals to allow an inspection, which the boy did, according to the lawsuit.

The school district admitted that it performed a search of the student's locker and "outer garments," but found no contraband.

In the lawsuit, the family said it never received any official notification of the search, which the district confirmed in its response.

Hawkins, who was principal of Round Lake Middle School for a year, left the district in June 2012. Before his stint as principal, he was assistant principal for two years. He is now an insurance agent in Fox Lake.

Porten is still assistant principal.

A statement attached to the settlement defended Hawkins and Porten.

"No information ever came to light that ever caused the school district to doubt Mr. Hawkins or Mr. Porten," it said. "The district has a policy governing student searches. The district determined that the policy was followed in this case."

According to the statement, the district's insurance company approved the settlement to avoid the costs of defense and the "inherent risks" of going to trial. It covered the $35,000.

The statement also said the Round Lake Beach Police Department looked into the allegations and determined they were unfounded.

But Round Lake Middle School is in Round Lake Heights, so the Round Lake Beach police would have no jurisdiction. The Round Lake Heights department confirmed it was the agency that investigated and found nothing criminal.

Under the agreement, the settlement terms are to remain confidential, unless disclosure is required by law. Government settlements are open record in Illinois, although confidentiality provisions are common.

"Upon inquiry," the settlement said, "all individuals shall simply state that these matters were settled to the satisfaction of the parties."

The family's attorney did not return phone calls for comment.

In an email, school district spokeswoman Heather Bennett said the school district does not have any documentation to show that its insurance rates were impacted because of the settlement.

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