Chris Roll removed as Lake Park's football coach
Lake Park High School head football coach Chris Roll has been removed from his position and could face further discipline for failing to get a background check on a volunteer with the Roselle school's football team.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Lake Park High School District 108 officials announced the findings of an internal investigation that focused on how a volunteer football coach, Frank J. Battaglia, 72, was allowed to work with this year's Lancers despite having pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a high school girl in the early 1990s.
After his background came to light, the district suspended Roll and placed Principal Dominic Manola and Athletic Director Pete Schauer on administrative leave.
District 108 officials said in the statement that head coaches are required to submit their team's coaching roster, "including all paid and volunteer coaches, to the human resources department for a criminal-background check before the coach begins their coaching duties."
District officials said the investigation determined that Roll "failed to follow the required criminal background process and directed an assistant coach to remove the volunteer coach from the list of names submitted to human resources for a background check."
As a result, Battaglia was never subject to the district's required criminal background process.
"Based upon the investigation findings, the administration has removed Chris Roll from the head varsity football coach position and will recommend disciplinary action be issued by the board of education," the statement reads.
District 108 said Schauer and Manola also will be disciplined.
"After Schauer questioned Roll midseason regarding the volunteer coach's identity, he failed to require a criminal-background check based upon Roll's response that the volunteer coach had limited involvement coaching and interacting with players," the statement reads.
The district said Manola neglected to report a midseason conversation where he was told that the volunteer coach "had a background which could prevent him from working with student athletes."
Roll, Manola and Schauer will return to their administration and teaching positions Friday, the district said.
The district's statement was released less than an hour before the school board met to interview superintendent candidates, and neither the board members nor administrators elaborated on the statement. A group of parents and students attended the public portion of the meeting to address the board.
"I appreciate how fast you came to a decision," parent Julie Presta said. "However, I wish to state my disappointment in your removing Chris Roll as head coach."
While the main focus is on the safety and well-being of students, Presta said no one holds that responsibility higher than Roll.
"The emotional well-being of these football players and their morale is going to be scarred from this," the Itasca resident said. "If your concern is these children, students and athletes, then you should want Chris Roll to be reinstated as head coach."
Presta's daughter, Lindi, said after the meeting that she's really upset by the decision.
"I know Mr. Roll personally," said Lindi, who is one of Roll's students. "We're family friends. It's horrible what they did."
Parent James Romano said he was shocked when he heard what happened.
"They definitely made the wrong decision," said Romano, adding that Roll "is Lake Park."
"He does everything for the community," the Bloomingdale resident said. "He does a lot of things in school and out of school and helps a lot of these kids go to college."
More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Roll's reinstatement as coach. The change.org petition, started Saturday night by a group of parents, says policies and procedures weren't enforced at Lake Park.
On Thursday, the district's statement said the administration and school board will take "additional steps necessary to ensure that the required background procedures are strictly followed to protect the safety of students participating in the district's athletic and extracurricular programs."