Parents at Glenn Elementary School looked for answers and reassurance from Unit 5 on Monday as the investigation continued into a teacher accused of molesting two first-graders.
Unit 5 and Normal Police released little new information Monday about the case against Jonathan Hovey, 47, of Forsyth. He faces six counts of predatory sexual assault and abuse for alleged misconduct with two students—one in 2005 and another in 2017-18.
Glenn Principal Cari Oester emailed parents Monday and shared resources for how to discuss the situation with their children. Police have said there could be more victims.
But Unit 5 on Monday failed to address some of the biggest questions posed since Hovey’s arrest. If he was investigated (but never charged) in 2005 for allegedly molesting a student, why was he allowed to continue teaching? Was Hovey put under any additional oversight after the 2005 case? Why weren’t parents notified after Hovey was put on leave in April?
“It’s really frustrating,” said Shanin Abreu of Normal, whose son was in Hovey’s class during the 2017-18 school year when the most recent abuse allegedly took place. “Predators usually have more than one victim. It’s really scary to think about.”
Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel was not made available Monday for a WGLT interview.
“This is a very serious case and an ongoing investigation. While we understand there is a desire for more information, we do not want to do anything to compromise the police investigation,” Unit 5 spokesperson Dayna Brown said in an email.
Brown said Hovey was put on paid administrative leave April 15, one day after Unit 5 received an email from the most recent victim’s mother, claiming her daughter had recently disclosed the abuse. The girl said the abuse happened “almost every day” during the 2017-18 school year.
Parents were told only that he was on leave, Brown said. He taught in Unit 5 for 18 years.
“This was an active investigation, so the information Unit 5 was allowed to share is limited,” Brown said.
Unit 5 did not respond to detailed WGLT questions about the 2005 allegation against Hovey. But the school district was “notified and involved” during that older Normal Police investigation, said Police Chief Rick Bleichner.
Bleichner said Normal Police worked the 2005 case along with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the McLean County state’s attorney’s office, and the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). The 2005 victim, then 7, was interviewed at the CAC about the allegation. The victim, now age 21, was recently re-interviewed by police investigating the newer allegation.
“We were not able to develop enough information to make an arrest that would lead to a successful prosecution,” Bleichner said Monday.
It was unclear whether Hovey was reprimanded or put under any additional supervision as a result of the 2005 allegation—or if he was even aware of it.
“Current district and school administration was not employed by Unit 5 at the time of the 2005 alleged incident,” Brown said. “Police have indicated that Unit 5 cooperated with authorities at that time. Authorities did not file charges in 2005, so Mr. Hovey remained employed by the district.”
Judge Bill Yoder was the McLean County state’s attorney in 2005. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Glenn Elementary School is a “tight-knit family school,” Abreu said. Everyone’s been in shock over the past few days as word of Hovey’s arrest spread, she said.
“I think a lot of us parents are confused about how to approach it with our children,” she said.
Monday’s email to parents recommended they review resources on the Erin’s Law website, a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. Unit 5 has implemented Erin’s Law curriculum, as required by state statute, in grades Pre-K through 5. The district contracts with YWCA McLean County’s Stepping Stones to administer that program.
Abreu said she appreciated Monday’s email from Unit 5. She hopes the district considers additional prevention measures in the future, such as more deliberate placement of teacher desks. (Hovey is accused of positioning his desk so other students couldn’t see the abuse.)
“Looking forward, I’m hoping they continue to be forthcoming and maybe proactive with social programs for kids that might have been affected,” Abreu said.
Abreu said they’ve told her son (now a third-grader) that Hovey was arrested but haven’t fully explained the allegations. They’re still thinking it through.
“I asked him if there was anything he could think of specifically that maybe Mr. Hovey had done that was wrong or inappropriate, and my son couldn’t think of anything,” she said. “So I thought that was a positive sign at first, though I haven’t approached it any further.”
Other parents were also left with questions. Some of them played out on the Glenn PTO’s Facebook group.
“I would really like to know what Glenn and Unit 5 is doing to protect our kids?” one parent wrote Sunday. “I’m not trying to debate anything political, but I do want to know why parents of students that had contact with the teacher were not told previously? Why is a teacher alone long enough to do what was (allegedly) done? I thought Glenn was the safest school in town.”
For now, Abreu said she’s trying not to rush to judgment about Hovey, who has only been charged—not convicted. “I feel pretty suspicious about it,” she said.
“I believe those kids that have come forward and said that something happened,” she said. “I just don’t want to throw him under the bus before the investigation is completed.”
Hovey was arrested Friday. He’s due back in court Aug. 16. He was being held on $100,000 bond. His attorney, Tristan Bullington, declined to comment about the charges.
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