Dear Montessori School of Lake Forest Community,
You might recently have become aware of news reports about a lawsuit that was filed today against Montessori School of Lake Forest. It is our school policy not to discuss specific details concerning any matter in litigation, nor do we comment on confidential student matters, as we respect the legal process and must safeguard the privacy of our students, alumni and their families.
The lawsuit has been filed by a former student and relates to sexual misconduct by a former Montessori School of Lake Forest teacher, Celina Montoya, who taught at our middle school from August 2010 to June 2013. In the fall of 2013, we learned for the first time of Ms. Montoya’s behavior from law enforcement. While she was no longer an employee of the school, we immediately contacted the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services. She was subsequently banned from both campuses and prohibited from contacting our school’s current students, alumni and parents. We fully cooperated with law enforcement authorities in their investigation. Ms. Montoya was arrested, pleaded guilty to criminal misconduct, and was sentenced to prison. She remains incarcerated. Law enforcement authorities who investigated this matter told us that the sexual misconduct by Ms. Montoya, which is the subject of this lawsuit, did not occur at school, during school hours, or on school property, and involved this one former student. We have not shared this information with our community earlier as the former student’s family was concerned about respecting the privacy, confidentiality and emotional well-being of their child. We honored the family’s request for confidentiality.
A healthy, caring and inspiring educational environment is the cornerstone of our school experience. The safety and well-being of our students is paramount. Any violation of that trust is a betrayal felt by all members of our community. We remain deeply saddened by this matter.
We continue to have robust child protection policies in place and are always reviewing them to ensure that our students are as safe as possible.
- We have long maintained standard hiring protocols for every employee, including background and reference checks.
- Training of our employees is essential. We provide annual training to all employees in their role as a mandated reporter and in maintaining professional boundaries and communications. All employees are required to annually certify their awareness of and compliance with the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, specifically, as mandated reporters, and review the Manual for Mandated Reporters.
- Employees are encouraged to refer any questions about boundary issues to the Executive Director.
- Students and parents are encouraged to refer any questions or concerns directly to the Executive Director.
We understand how upsetting this is to our community. We will offer counseling to any current or former students who wish to receive it.
We remain vigilant as protection of all of our students is a critical and ongoing process. I ask for your patience during this difficult time. While I am not in a position to comment on legal matters, should anyone have information to share information about any inappropriate conduct by Ms. Montoya, or any past or current employee of our school, please call me at 847-918-1000. In addition, should you have any questions about our school’s safety policies and procedures, or if you wish to share comments, I am happy to hear from you.
My door is always open.
Montessori School of Lake Forest