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A Sensitive Conversation: Guidance For Parents At Glenn School

Glenn exterior with Hovey's mugshot
Google Maps, McLean County sheriff's department
Jonathan Hovey taught first grade at Glenn Elementary School in Normal.

On Friday police arrested a longtime first-grade teacher at Glenn Elementary School in Unit 5 for allegedly molesting female students. Unit 5 pulled the teacher, Jonathan Hovey, from class back in April when the district learned of a new allegation.

During the investigation, police became aware of a second allegation back in 2005 that never resulted in criminal charges. The now 21-year-old alleged victim in that earlier case relayed details to current investigators that are similar to ones lodged this year.

Police in Normal are now asking for information from parents of Hovey's former students that could result in more reports. Hovey taught at Glenn for 18 years.

A lot of parents of former first-grade students at Glenn School will likely be asking their children about Hovey.

Asking your daughter if the teacher molested her is a tough conversation. Bloomington-Normal psychotherapist Dr. Laurie Bergner said there are some guidelines for parents, most importantly being non-judgmental.

“Simply letting them know the parents will believe them, letting them know that they are not at fault and that there’s no shame, that they are loved and will be supported if anything like this has happened is what’s really important,” said Bergner.

Bergner said parents should not ask, why didn’t you tell me?

“No, you’d never want to say that, even though you might be thinking that and wondering. But I think you would want to stay calm and very, very non-judgmental. Simply loving and supportive. ‘I’m so sorry this happened. I love you and we are going to work on this and help you deal with it because it must have been very hard for you,’” said Bergner.

Bergner said it is possible to create false memories, so parents should be careful how they question their children. She said they should not put words in children’s mouths.

“You would ask, did this person ever make you feel uncomfortable or weird? Did he ever touch you or ask you to touch him? But if they say no at first, you don’t push it. You don’t insist that it happened. You don’t get more and more graphic about it,” said Bergner

Normal Police ask anyone who may have information concerning these investigations or believe they had inappropriate contact with Hovey to contact Detective Kendra DeRosa at (309) 454-9624.

The case echoed the last significant abuse case involving a Unit 5 first-grade teacher: Jon White. He's serving 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting students at Unit 5's Colene Hoose Elementary School in 2004-05 and later at a school in Urbana.

In 1988, another case involved then-Colene Hoose Principal Robert Beamer. When the initial allegations came out involving a young boy, several other possible victims went to police. Beamer killed himself before a trial could happen.

Bergner said sexual predators typically target one gender or another, not both. White was convicted of sexual offenses against girls. Beamer’s accusers were boys. Hovey is accused of sexually abusing first-grade girls.

Bergner said some studies show the average molester abuses 250 girls before they are caught. The average number for abusers who target boys is significantly higher, she said.

Listen to Charlie Schlenker talk with Dr. Laurie Bergner about how to talk with children about potential molestation.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.