A Harvey high school teacher and coach accused last year of inappropriately touching a female student during gym class was arrested last week after another woman told police he had allegedly impregnated her twice while she was a high school student, prosecutors said.
Jason Hardy, a 42-year-old former gym teacher and softball coach at Thornton Township High School who resigned last December, was arrested Thursday and charged with criminal sexual assault.
He allegedly initiated a sexual relationship with one of his softball players in 2010, when she was 17 and he was 33, prosecutors said. The alleged victim told police that Hardy got her pregnant twice and that she had abortions in both cases.
The woman, now 26, said she didn’t come forward at the time for fear of jeopardizing Hardy’s career and the reputational repercussions she might face if others learned she had abortions, according to a bond proffer.
After reading on Facebook in September that Hardy had been accused of inappropriately touching another student, however, the woman contacted police because “she does not want (Hardy) to do to anyone else what he did to (her),” prosecutors said.
District 205 officials released a statement saying they were “shocked and saddened” by Hardy’s arrest and were cooperating with law enforcement.
“The Thornton Township High Schools District 205, Board of Education Members and administrations goal is to continue to move forward to ensure the safety of our students and to make sure that law enforcement has everything they need from us for their investigation,” the statement reads. “We at Thornton Township High Schools District 205 take the health, safety, and personal welfare of our students and their families extremely seriously.”
The district said that because the case involved a former student it could not comment further about the matter. A district spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about Hardy’s tenure with the district or whether district officials had received any other complaints about Hardy.
Hardy’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
A woman, whose teenage daughter accused Hardy of twice reaching under her shirt during gym class last May and caressing her back and sides, said she had been in touch with the alleged sexual assault victim on Facebook after posting about Hardy’s alleged behavior with her daughter.
In an interview with the Daily Southtown on Monday, the mother said the woman was hesitant about coming forward at first, but ultimately decided to tell police about her alleged experiences with Hardy. The Daily Southtown is not naming the former student or her mother because the paper does not identify victims.
The mother said that in addition to her daughter and the alleged sexual assault victim, a number of other former Thornton students contacted her about Hardy’s alleged inappropriate behavior toward them.
Prosecutors said they had located two additional victims, but that one refused to talk and the other did not want to pursue charges at this time because of “other circumstances going on in her life.”
The mother, who had her daughter removed from Thornton after the alleged incident with Hardy in May 2018, filed a report with Harvey police in September that led to his arrest on misdemeanor battery charges on Sept. 8, records show.
According to a criminal complaint, Hardy reached under the juvenile student’s jacket and placed his hand on her bare skin while rubbing her back up and down and stating “I love you” on two separate occasions on May 8, 2018.
The mother said Hardy had been her daughter’s softball coach and gym teacher.
A Department of Children and Family Services spokesman said the agency received a complaint about Hardy in August 2018, approximately three months after the mother said her daughter reported the incident to the school, and that the allegations were “indicated,” meaning they were substantiated. He said privacy laws prevented him from disclosing who made the complaint against Hardy.
DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch said it was the only complaint the agency had ever received about Hardy.
On April 18, a warrant was issued for Hardy’s arrest on the criminal sexual assault charges and executed last week when Hardy appeared in court on the battery charges.
Hardy appeared in bond court Friday, where his bail was set at $50,000. He posted the required 10% the same day and was released from custody, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said.
He will appear in court on the criminal sexual assault charges on June 7 and on the battery charges June 25.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune – Zak Koeske