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Thursday, October 17, 2019

House candidate Acklin denies he shrugged off sex charges against teacher

By Vimbai Chikomo | Mar 3, 2016

Republican Illinois House hopeful Jim Acklin says accounts he let a family friend continue teaching high school after being told he was a sexual predator are “desperate political attacks.”

Acklin’s handling of St. Joseph-Ogden High School teacher-turned-convicted sexual predator Jon Jamison was the subject of a story in the Madison/St. Clair Record on Feb 28. According to court documents and published reports, the former superintendent-- who stood up in Jamison’s wedding-- hosted a 2008 meeting where he heard allegations that his friend was in a sexual relationship with a student.

But Acklin and the school didn’t take action until four years later, in 2012-- after the Champaign County Sheriff brought charges against Jamison. He later pled guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim between the ages of 13 and 18.

A 2012 story published by WCIA-TV (CBS) in Champaign reported that "Acklin says he was aware of an incident involving Jamison in February 2008.”

But Acklin now claims these accounts aren’t true. He says he wasn’t told about Jamison’s relationships with students until charges were brought and that charges otherwise are based on “lies and deception.”

“There is nothing more important to me than the health, safety, and care of students,” Acklin said in a statement. “They are the reason I became a teacher and coach, and later, a school administrator. Jon Jamison’s actions were despicable. As soon as I learned of them, he was immediately removed from the classroom and banned from school property. We took all actions to keep our students safe and to keep this man from ever being in a position of authority ever again.”

Jamison, according to court documents, is alleged to have carried on inappropriate student relationships from 2002 until 2012, when charges were brought. Acklin stood up in his wedding in Dec. 2005. He became superintendent of St. Joseph-Ogden School district in 2007.

Former St. Joseph-Ogden School Board President Les Hoveln came to Acklin’s defense, stating that such allegations are “desperate political attacks” against Acklin, the schools and the community.

“These political attacks are disgusting,” Hoveln said. “They’re telling lies about Jim Acklin and attacking our great schools and great community. In my experience, Jim Acklin showed tremendous leadership for our school district and community during this incredibly difficult incident. I am thankful for the contributions he made to our community and hope people look past these vile, desperate political attacks.”

In a 2012 “Jane Doe” sexual misconduct lawsuit, another former high school student sued the school district, Acklin, Chad Uphoff, St. Joseph-Ogden High School principal in 2006-07, and Brian Brooks, the school’s principal in 2007-2008; claiming that while the school investigated allegations by another girl’s parent, it didn’t report the allegations to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as required by law.

Doe’s lawyers, Thomas Bruno and Dennis Mickunas of Champaign, wrote in the suit that Jamison flirted with Jane Doe, sent her suggestive messages and made suggestive calls, kissed her passionately, and rubbed her thigh; in addition to providing alcohol to the minor which the two consumed on more than one occasion.

The suit also claimed Jamison had hugged and kissed female students, touched them suggestively, rubbed their thighs, and asked them to dance for him.

Acklin and the school board argued that this was as much the high school girl’s fault as Jamison’s.

“Plaintiff was under a duty to use care and caution for her own safety and well being,” they argued, adding that and that the student “concealed facts and deceived school officials when she was asked about her relationship with Jamison.”

Ultimately, Acklin and the district won the case in Champaign County circuit court, after Circuit judge Jeffrey Ford agreed that Jamison may have passionately kissed and caressed the student, but because he did not have sexual intercourse with her, under Illinois Code, “None of the alleged acts by the plaintiff fit the definitions of sexual conduct or sexual penetration.”

The school district settled the claims for $6,500.

Acklin is vying for the Republican nomination in the 102nd District, which includes Paris, Shelbyville, St. Joseph, Ogden and Tuscola.

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