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Local News

Depositions begin soon for Richland lawsuit in Crest Hill

Case may be scheduled for trial Aug. 5

CREST HILL – Depositions for a 2012 lawsuit involving allegations from a teacher of workplace abuse at Richland School District 88a are scheduled to take place within the next several weeks.

A trial date may be set at the next status hearing, which is scheduled for Aug. 5 at the Will County Courthouse Annex. Involved in the deposition are district Superintendent Michael Early and former teachers Christine Roche and Tina Behnke.

Roche, who worked with special education students in Behnke’s class, is accusing Behnke of calling her “fat” and of using profanity to describe Roche’s appearance while in front of students and other teachers, according to court documents.

Roche’s fourth amended complaint, obtained through Roche’s lawyer, states that Roche reported the incident to Early and another supervisor, and that Roche had to seek treatment with a therapist to treat a high level of emotional stress because of continuing abuse by Behnke.

Other incidents mentioned in the complaint include Behnke asking Roche “if she was pregnant because she looked heavy around the mid-section,” and that “the ‘real issue’ was [Roche’s] weight,” and overall appearance.

The complaint also states that Early’s investigation into the incidents, while acknowledging the egregious nature of Behnke’s actions, didn’t take proper actions to separate the teachers.

The complaint contains five counts: negligent infliction of emotional distress, willful and wanton conduct, negligent hiring, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Defense attorney Scott Cruz, representing the district, Early and Behnke, said the depositions should be over before the Aug. 5 status hearing. And the defendants are denying all five counts.

“The next step after the deposition is a motion for summary judgment,” Cruz said, which will ask for dismissal of the complaint. “If that motion is not successful, it will go to trial at a later date.”

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