School City notified law enforcement after allegations surfaced on Morton teacher

2013-03-28T19:15:00Z 2013-03-29T12:07:13Z School City notified law enforcement after allegations surfaced on Morton teacherChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | School City of Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins said the district immediately notified law enforcement and suspended a former Morton High School teacher when allegations arose of his conduct.

The former teacher, Jon Erik Lilly, 27, of Cedar Lake, stands accused in federal court of requesting several underage female students send sexually explicit photos to him by cellphone.

Lilly faces a federal charge of possessing visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Watkins said the teacher resigned from the school shortly after he was suspended.

“A primary responsibility for the School City of Hammond is to provide a safe and conducive learning environment for its students,” Watkins said in a statement. “When the School City of Hammond learns that a threat to that environment exists, immediate action is taken to ensure the safety of its students.”

In November, a school administrator had told federal investigators she had written Lilly up when she found a 17-year-old girl in his classroom sitting between his legs, a federal complaint states.

Administrators said they went to police after two students reported that the 17-year-old girl and Lilly had engaged in sexual activity, according to the complaint.

Though the girl originally said their relationship was “strictly platonic,” she eventually told investigators she had a months-long sexual relationship with the teacher, federal court records state. Lilly denied any physical contact with the girl when he spoke with an investigator.

The girl, along with three other former students, said they had sent Lilly sexually explicit photos upon his request and a search of his computer found such images, the complaint states.

The girl's mother, who the The Times chose not to identify, said Thursday her daughter is now 18 and is splitting her time living with the former teacher and a friend. The mother said her daughter was present when Lilly was arrested Wednesday.

“It has devastated our lives. It has destroyed our family,” the mother said.

The mother said she and her husband met with school administrators in February when they were told rumors had circulated that the teacher was having an affair with the girl.

Watkins pledged the district would continue to cooperate with law enforcement.

“The welfare of our students is and always will be paramount at the School City of Hammond,” Watkins said in a statement. “When anyone presents a possible danger to our students, we will take immediate corrective action and will assist in the pursuit of appropriate sanctions of that person. The safety of the students attending our schools will not be compromised.”

In a separate incident, a former Morton High School boys varsity basketball coach and teacher was arrested in June on allegations of engaging in sexual activities with a 17-year-old student.

Benjamin Chinn, 27, of Merrillville, faces two felony charges of child seduction in Lake Criminal Court. Chinn denies the claims and a trial is scheduled for June, according to his attorney, Scott King.

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