Crime & Courts

Indian Creek superintendent named in data breach lawsuit

Chad Willis is the new superintendent at Indian Creek School District 425

SHABBONA – The Indian Creek School District 425’s superintendent has been named in a lawsuit accusing him of trying to keep a data breach under wraps, court records show.

According to the lawsuit filed Jan. 31 in Knox County by the Abingdon-Avon School District 276’s technology director, Mark Rogers, Willis pressured Rogers to not disclose a breach Willis created while he was District 276’s superintendent in 2016.

“On March 11, 2016, Rogers informed Willis via email of a potential security breach created by Willis when he shared a link to a Skyward data backup file, which contained a complete copy of the school’s Skyward data file with full access to anyone,” the suit reads.

Skyward is the school’s data management system, which includes student and staff information, including grades, disciplinary and employment records and social security numbers.

The suit, filed by Rogers’ lawyers with the firm Gullberg, Box, Worby and Rogers in Monmouth, said the District 276 board placed Rogers on administrative leave May 3, 2016, after Willis asked him to resign. Rogers subsequently was charged with three counts of felony eavesdropping for using a computer video camera in his office which, according to the suit, Willis knew Rogers used – and which Willis himself used. The charges ultimately were dropped.

The suit said Rogers was reinstated in mid-July 2017, but that the district board limited his access to computer data programs and networks. He still is District 276’s technology director.

The lawsuit said Rogers thinks Willis was in part motivated by the fact that when he was hired as superintendent, he wanted to hire his own technology director, but the board refused.

Rogers is suing on seven counts: violation of the Whistleblower Act, violation of the Illinois School Student Records Act, intentional and negligent inflicting of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, false arrest and imprisonment and defamation.

The suit is seeking $1 million “to punish the defendants’ willful and malicious conduct and as will serve as an example to prevent a repetition of such conduct in the future, as well as $30,000 for legal fees.

“After over 14 years of faithful service to the school, Mr. Rogers was unjustly targeted and investigated as the person who was responsible for the breach of the school’s Skyward data system in 2016,” a news release from his lawyers reads. “The unjust investigation resulted in Mr. Rogers facing false criminal charges and caused irreversible damage to his reputation.”

Also named in the lawsuit are the District 276 board and Garrett Discovery, the tech firm Willis hired Feb. 5, 2016, to investigate Skyward security breaches, shortly after Rogers reported unauthorized access to Willis.

The suit demands a jury trial.

“Mr. Rogers looks forward to having his day in court,” the statement from his law firm reads.

Willis, who replaced outgoing District 425 Superintendent Pamela Rockwood before the 2016-17 school year, has not returned requests for comment.