Fenwick High School has chosen not to renew the contract of longtime teacher John Quinn. The school announced its decision July 6 following the result of a months-long investigation that “uncovered clear and unequivocal violations” against some students.
Quinn, a veteran educator and decorated basketball coach, was placed on administrative leave in late March after allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment surfaced from at least two former female students. Helen Quinn Pasin and Emma Seavey, both Fenwick graduates, took to YouTube, publicly detailing their experiences where Quinn allegedly touched them inappropriately or made inappropriate comments.
On July 7, a day after Fenwick announced its decision to oust Quinn, Pasin released a new YouTube video saying that Fenwick had finally done the right thing but that it took 20 years too long.
In one of three videos initially posted to YouTube, Pasin called Quinn her “abuser” and described instances where he hugged her tightly and afterward ran his cheek against her face while asking about her “love life.” In one instance, Pasin said, Quinn looked her up and down, hugged her “and [made] noises that sounded like he was growling.” Seavey shared similar encounters, one in particular where Quinn also wrapped his arms around her and “slid his hand under my bra strap over my blouse.”
In a July 6 email, John Barron, chairman of the high school’s board of directors, said the school sought legal counsel who oversaw a “third-party” investigation of Quinn, which has now concluded. The investigation was led by Lisa R. Callaway, a partner of the Oakbrook-based law firm Engler Callaway Baasten & Sraga, a spokesperson for Fenwick said.
“We are writing to notify you that Fenwick will not be renewing Mr. Quinn’s contract for future school years. Our investigation uncovered clear and unequivocal violations that warrant Mr. Quinn’s immediate departure,” Barron wrote in a schoolwide email. “This decision was made based on a comprehensive review of the findings of the independent investigation.”
John Quinn issued a statement through his attorney, his brother Thomas Quinn, denying the allegations against him. Thomas Quinn claimed that Fenwick’s public statement left out “critical” pieces of information – that the investigator “completely exonerated John from any sexual misconduct whatsoever” and said the school has yet to provide a copy of the investigation report to his brother.
Fenwick and the Callaway firm have yet to confirm Thomas Quinn’s claims. A Fenwick spokesperson, however, referred back to the school statement, again repeating that there were “clear and unequivocal violations that warranted Mr. [John] Quinn’s immediate departure.”
Barron said the school is planning to make major changes in its policies, including “implementing an ongoing, comprehensive review of our confidential reporting systems, strong governance and oversight procedures, and a renewed training program for faculty and staff.”
“Fenwick High School is steadfast in our commitment to providing students with a safe and inclusive environment to learn and grow,” Barron said in the email. “We promise you that we will always act transparently in our efforts to ensure our students feel safe and supported.”
On July 7, one day after Fenwick released its statement and outcome of the investigation, Pasin posted a new video to YouTube to share her thoughts.
“All along, my mission was to get this predator out of the school, and finally Fenwick has done the right thing,” Pasin said in a three-minute video. “It definitely took way too long. It took 20-plus years, and the damage he has caused is probably immeasurable, but at least we got this one predator out of the school.”
She said she and Seavey have not received a formal apology from Fenwick, pointing out they both remained unnamed even in the schoolwide emails.
“There was no acknowledgment of us, but I know it was us. And that’s good enough for me, I guess. I f– hate Fenwick. So, the thought of them reaching out to me is just like cringe,” Pasin said candidly.
In the statement on behalf of John Quinn, Thomas Quinn argued his brother interpreted a phrase in Fenwick’s statement to mean something else: “Although Fenwick has refused to provide John with a copy of the investigator’s report, John understands that the ‘clear and unequivocal violations’ to which Fenwick refers in its communication to be alleged instances in which John patted students on the back or shoulder.”
Thomas Quinn maintained that his brother had always “conducted himself in a moral and ethical manner, and his record is one of honor, integrity and distinction.”
“John is deeply disappointed that he will not be able to continue his teaching career at Fenwick, but he will always treasure the joys of teaching or coaching thousands of Fenwick students.”