Lake Park parents come to head coach's defense as probe centers on vetting of volunteer coach
The internal probe that has rocked Lake Park High School for the past week is focused on a volunteer coach's involvement in the Roselle school's football program, officials said Wednesday in a carefully worded news release.
Officials did not name the volunteer coach or specify what they are investigating.
The probe already led the district to indefinitely suspend head coach Chris Roll last Friday and to place Principal Dominic Manola and Athletic Director Pete Schauer on administrative leave Tuesday.
It also has sparked a backlash from Lake Park graduates and parents of some players on the Lancers football team who attended a special school board meeting Wednesday to defend Coach Roll.
"Chris Roll is the reason why Lake Park has the legacy that it does," said Ray Alford, one of Roll's former players. "Please don't forget it."
Tim Denman, an Itasca resident who has a son on the football team, said before the meeting that Roll should be immediately reinstated.
"He has put his heart, his soul, his life into Lake Park High School and Lake Park football," Denman said. "If we lose Chris Roll, our community will be affected."
District officials, who had been mum on the circumstances leading to the administrative shake-up, on Wednesday said the district is "in the midst of conducting a comprehensive and confidential personnel investigation" into the volunteer coach.
"While the district cannot release details of the investigation, the district utilizes a standard process with all volunteers," the news release said. "The district requires criminal background checks and fingerprinting of all volunteers involved in co-curricular programs, which includes all athletics and activities. Head coaches and sponsors are required to submit a roster of volunteer and paid coaches to the Human Resources Department and Athletic Department authorizing criminal background checks.
"However, the district cannot proceed with a criminal-background check of a volunteer if the head coach or sponsor fails to submit the name of the volunteer."
Several parents at Wednesday's meeting asked when background checks became a requirement for volunteer coaches. The school board did not answer that or speak about the issue at all during the meeting.
Parent Jenny Burke of Itasca took issue with the district's communication about Roll.
"Chris Roll absolutely seems to be targeted by this entire investigation," said Burke, adding that a district email sent Wednesday suggests that what happened was Roll's fault.
"I'm an attorney," Burke said. "When you look at the law, it's not only the employee who is at fault. It is the people in charge of that employee as well."
Parents said Roll would never knowingly put children at risk in any way.
Denman said Roll grew up in the community and has devoted his life to teaching. Since becoming Lake Park's head football coach in 2011, Roll has developed a football program that is "second to none," Denman said.
"There isn't a better man that teaches life lessons, that teaches teamwork, that teaches desire," Denman said.
Lake Park High School District 108 officials said they are trying to "expeditiously complete" the investigation "while carefully balancing the release of information, maintaining the integrity of the investigation process, and ensuring due process for all parties involved."
Roselle police and the DuPage County state's attorney's office said they are not involved in the school's investigation.