Cover Story

A public school's private shame

It's almost September. Do you know where your kids are?

Issue: "Dirty little secret," Aug. 23, 1997

As summer draws to a close, the nation's schools and the nation's legislature both return from recess. In Washington, members of Congress will soon learn about a nightmare account of a teenage girl's alleged seduction by a public-school teacher-and how one of the federal government's programs is to blame for hiding it from her parents. Washington dispenses "family-planning" money, so clinics across the country can dispense "free" contraceptives, on the condition of confidentiality. Some members of Congress want to change all that-and they'll point to the sad case of one family as an example of why it's important to do so.

Betty Doe (not her real name) is spending the final days of summer painting her room. The 16-year-old's photos of actors and actresses from black-and-white films are down for now, as are the posters of her favorite musicians. No, not Aerosmith or Smashing Pumpkins-Charlie Parker and his fellow jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. They're rolled up carefully and laid aside, near the trophies and awards this former athlete collected ... before.

And she's regained a little weight this summer, after some weeks of going for treatment at a day hospital for anorexia nervosa. She eats now, but only if her mother and father sit at the table in their suburban Illinois home with her, making sure she doesn't hide the food. And she's practicing her music again; she has a good shot at winning a college scholarship next year (she plays six instruments, but like the Bird and Sonny Rollins, she loves saxophone the best).

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But some things are still missing. She was gregarious before; she's mostly alone now. Most of her friends were simply scared away by Betty's depression; others have trouble dealing with the weight of what happened.

Beginning when she was 13 and lasting for 18 months, Betty was allegedly molested by a gym teacher at Crystal Lake North Junior High School. Betty says the teacher, 37-year-old William Saturday (his real name), told her he loved her, even as he led her into darker and more depraved sexual practices, according to her family.

She finally told her parents in February. Today, Mr. Saturday is in jail, facing 10 counts of criminal sexual assault, eight counts of child pornography, and two counts of official misconduct.

What makes it worse, Betty's parents say, is that the government aided and abetted Mr. Saturday. They say he did not want to rely only on his condoms, demanded that Betty use some type of birth control, and took her to the McHenry County (Illinois) Health Department clinic. As he waited outside, she received an injection of the controversial drug Depo-Provera, which is purported to prevent the release of a female's ovum for three months.

He took her back three months later for another shot, Betty says, and once more three months after that. County officials knew Betty's age, but in keeping with rules governing the use of funds from federal Title X family-planning programs, clinic workers did not notify her parents that she was getting the shots, even though the age of consent in Illinois is 18.

Through her parents, Betty is now suing Mr. Saturday, the school district, and the principal of North Junior High School (her attorneys say the principal was informed something was going on, but never investigated it) and the county health department, for $17.5 million. Attorneys for the school district and the county were unavailable for comment. J. Kevin McBride, who represents Mr. Saturday on the criminal counts, returned a phone call to WORLD, but would only say that his client is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

In an exclusive interview with WORLD, Betty's father, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, recalls the afternoon he learned of the alleged molestation. When he got home from work, his wife called him upstairs to their bedroom. As had become usual, Betty had locked herself in her own room.

"My wife was shaking," he said, "and she shut the door. I knew it was serious. Then she told me. There was no ranting and raving. I just remember trying to sit down, trying to think rationally. My wife, my best friend for 27 years, was coming apart. I had to try to comfort her, I had to try to think."

One of the most disturbing aspects of the nightmare is the knowledge that the county health department had reason to suspect his daughter was being molested, Mr. Doe charges. "But instead of telling me, the government injected my child with a chemical and kept it a secret. My first priority then and now is to take care of my family. But I would also like to help make sure this doesn't happen to other families. I would like to see Title X abolished, or at least changed."

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