Urbana teacher faces molestation charges

By Emily Sokolik

Parents are demanding answers after allegations of sexual assault surfaced last week at Thomas Paine Elementary School in Urbana.

Jon Andrew White, 26, was arrested last Wednesday morning when he arrived for work at Thomas Paine School, 1601 James Cherry Drive. White has taught second grade with the Urbana School District since August 2005.

He pleaded not guilty to three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, the Associated Press reported Monday. White could face life in prison if convicted on two or more counts.

White is accused of molesting several of his female students sometime between September and December 2006, according to the Associated Press. The girls were all seven years old or eight years old at the time.

In November, the Urbana School District looked into allegations of sexual misconduct against White involving two of his students. Gene Amberg, Urbana School District superintendent, told the Associated Press that the accusations were determined to be unfounded at the time.

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Lydia Carter, an Urbana resident and parent of a son in White’s class said she wants to know why the school board did not inform parents of the allegations against White when an investigation was conducted at the end of last year.

“Just to know that the allegations were brought and the accusations were made back in November kind of burns me because he was still teaching our kids,” she said.

The charges allege that the sex acts took place in White’s classroom where he blindfolded the girls and had them play “tasting games.”

More than 200 community members filled the Thomas Paine school gymnasium Wednesday night for a meeting with the Urbana School Board. Parents fought back tears and probed the board for answers.

“We are in the middle of a very complicated situation,” said Mike Bily, Urbana police chief. “The entire matter is being looked at and reviewed by not only our agency but (also) the state attorney’s office.”

Amberg said Janice Bradley, the school’s principal, has been put on indefinite administrative leave. Ken Paxton, school district employee, will take over Bradley’s position in her absence.

“The Thomas Paine community, the teachers, everyone is dedicated to providing an uninterrupted education for the children,” Paxton said. “We’ll continue to provide a quality education with the routines we currently have in place.”

Charlotte Windsor’s daughter was in White’s class and expressed sympathy for the victims and their parents.

“How do you think this is going to affect all these seven and eight-year-old girls?” she asked. “I’m lucky my daughter got away from Mr. White. She was not one of his victims. Thank God.”

The school board was able to answer few questions about the case since the investigation is ongoing.

“Those of us on the board side are frustrated as can be because we can’t answer questions that are asked.” he said. “I hope justice can be served.”

White was released on $50,000 bond last Friday, and will appear in court Feb. 27.

He taught at two schools in the Normal school district from 2002-2005, according to the Associated Press. White is married and has a nine-month-old child.