The Illinois School for the Deaf teacher being investigated by police for alleged sexual contact with one or more students of the state-operated school is a graduate of the institution and a longtime coach there.
First reported by the State Journal-Register, 52 year old Charles Hicks Jr. is the focus of the investigation by Illinois State Police, according to a Trooper who spoke with the Journal-Register.
The newspaper reported in mid-March that the investigation began in 2018. Hicks, an employee of the Jacksonville school for more than 24 years and a former boys basketball and football coach there, hasn’t been charged in the ongoing investigation. Hicks, who is deaf, did not respond to an apparent email request for an interview or a letter to his Jacksonville home.
The Chicago Tribune reported in a 1997 story about the ISD basketball team that Hicks coached the team to the deaf schools national championship in 1995.
Hicks’ mother, Charlene Hicks, is a member of the school’s advisory council. She didn’t respond to a Facebook message from a Journal-Register representative requesting comment.
State government documents obtained by the S-JR through a FOIA request say Hicks was placed on paid administrative leave on March 2nd, 2018, in connection with an investigation that began Feb. 28th. In a March 2018 letter to Hicks, ISD Superintendent Julee Nist ordered Hicks not to be in any location within the Illinois School for the Deaf where students are present. Nist added that Hicks should not have “contact with any students.”
Hicks, whose annual pay is listed in state records as $73,284, apparently has not returned to his regular teaching job since then. His administrative leave was extended on March 11th, 2019. He is apparently set to return on May 10th, according to state documents.
However, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services — which oversees the school — told the Journal-Register in an email, “the individual in question will remain on leave for the duration of the investigation. Administrative leave needs to be approved for specific periods of time, but we can keep extending it. The safety of all students is our highest priority, and we will always do everything in our power to make ISD a safe learning environment.”
State Police haven’t said how long the investigation may last.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll said he is waiting for the probe to conclude before deciding whether any criminal charges should be filed.
It’s unclear how or why Hicks was able to retain his pay while on leave. It’s also unclear whether he has been tasked with any specific duties while on administrative leave.
The letter says Hicks isn’t eligible to work overtime on any living area of the campus, which includes housing for students who live there.
This isn’t the only controversy at the school in recent years.
State Police recently submitted a report to Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll about an alleged April 2018 sexual encounter at the school, possibly involving two of the school’s students — a male and a female — that was later posted on an adult website. Noll hasn’t decided whether any criminal charges are warranted in that incident.
The situation attracted criticism from advocates for deaf and hard of hearing people who cited a potential lack of supervision by the staff.
The school was figuratively scolded by the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools & Programs for the Deaf when the not-for-profit conference gave the school a one-year, “provisional” accreditation last October, rather than a full, multi-year accreditation.