Two former Evanston Township High School students filed lawsuits Wednesday alleging a former drama teacher sexually abused them nearly three decades ago.
The lawsuits name former teacher Bruce Siewerth, the school, District 202 and the District 202 school board as defendants, and allege school officials did not respond to complaints about the teacher’s behavior.
Filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the separate lawsuits list John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 as plaintiffs, and seek a minimum of $50,000 each from the high school, the teacher and the Evanston Township High School 202 Board of Education.
The two are alumni who graduated from ETHS in 1979 and 1980 according to the lawsuits.
The civil complaints allege Siewerth, 77, who retired from the school in 1999, “breached” his duty.
Neither Evanston Township High School officials nor Siewerth immediately responded to requests for comment on the lawsuits.
Reached by phone at his home after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged on Facebook earlier this month, Siewerth denied them.
“I’m not a sexual predator for goodness sake. I’m a grandfather,” Siewerth said on Oct. 12. “These are people who don’t like me because I didn’t cast them. I don’t know why it’s coming up now.”
Asked specifically whether he ever inappropriately touched students, Siewerth said: “Who knows; as a drama teacher, you’re dealing with setting people up, what they should be doing, what they shouldn’t be doing.”
8, in response to the allegations made on Facebook, the school district issued a statement acknowledging the allegations.
“On behalf of Evanston Township High School District 202, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the expressed pain that has surfaced among our alumni in light of recent allegations that a former teacher who retired from the district in the 1990s engaged in inappropriate sexual touching, groping, and harassment of former students while employed at the district,” Supt. Eric Witherspoon wrote in an emailed statement.
The superintendent said in the statement: “We are deeply sorry for the pain certain individuals may be experiencing as a result of these allegations, and recognize how these allegations may impact ETHS graduates, their classmates, loved ones, current students, parents and staff in different ways.”
The student who alleged on Facebook that Siewerth sexually abused him in the 1980s said he posted those comments on the social media site after hearing about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.