School Staffer Grabbed Boy, 11, Threw Him To Ground, Prosecutors Say

MORTON GROVE, IL — A former Golf School District 67 staffer faces a felony charge after authorities said he grabbed a sixth grader by the backpack and threw him to the ground last month during a confrontation in a school hallway.

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Eugene Jo, 45, of Morton Grove, was charged with aggravated battery to a child under 13 in connection with a Feb. 8 incident at Golf Middle school, 9401 Waukegan Road, where he had been a paraprofessional for seven years, authorities said.

Around 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, Jo came running out of a classroom and approached an 11-year-old boy who was using his saxophone mouthpiece to make a whistling sound as he walked down the hallway, according to Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Nic Attia.

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Jo tried to grab the sax mouthpiece but the boy held on, the prosecutor said Thursday at Jo’s initial court appearance in Skokie. Jo grabbed the boy’s arm to take him to the dean’s office, and the boy stopped at his locker to get his stuff before breaking away taking off running toward the school exit, according to Attia.

Then, in a chase partially captured by video surveillance, Jo ran through the hallway after the fleeing sixth grader, bumping into other students and knocking things out of their arms as he ran, the prosecutor said.

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“[Jo] caught up to the [11-year-old boy] and grabbed [his] backpack, throwing [him] to the floor,” Attia said. “[The boy] was struck to the ground hard with both knees and an elbow.”

The 45-year-old paraprofessional then pulled the boy up to his feel by his backpack and sweatshirt before grabbing him by the back of the neck and “aggressively pushing [the boy] into a chair and screaming at [him] to sit,” the prosecutor said.

The incident was witnessed by multiple people at the school, and the 11-year-old suffered bruised knees and an abrasion to his elbow, he said.

The dean sent the boy home that day, but multiple students reported Jo’s conduct to the dean, according to Attia. When Jo described the incident to the dean, he claimed the boy “tripped” and denied pushing him to the ground. Jo was put on administrative leave pending an investigation, according to the prosecutor.

The next day, District 67 Superintendent Susan Coleman called the boy’s parents and asked the boy to write down what happened, Attia said.

Coleman, who declined to comment for this article, also interviewed multiple student witnesses about the confrontation, and all of them gave stories consistent with the sixth grader, according to the prosecutor.

The superintendent later interviewed Jo at a disciplinary hearing.

“[Jo] admitted to attempting to take the mouthpiece from the [boy] and grabbing [him] by the arm. [Jo] admitted to chasing after [the boy] and attempting to grab [his] backpack, [Jo] stated that the [boy] tripped or fell or something like that,” Attia said.

“[Jo] admitted to picking the [boy] up by his backpack and grabbing [his] neck or shoulder to guide [him] into the office,” the prosecutor said.”[Jo] also admitted he knew he should have not touched the [boy] and that he did not handle the situation well, [Jo] admitted to snapping and reacting emotionally on instinct.”

The District 67 board voted to terminate Jo “for cause” on Feb. 16, according to the prosecutor and the meeting agenda’s.

In a forensic interview on Feb. 21, the boy identified Jo, who was taken into custody the next day but released without charges after he exercised his constitutional right to an attorney.

On Wednesday, Jo turned himself in to the Morton Grove Police Department after his attorney made arrangements with a detective, his lawyer said.

The charge is class 3 felony, with a conviction punishable by a sentence from probation to five years. Jo has no prior arrests.

Circuit Judge Lorraine Murphy ordered Jo to pay $3,000 to secure his pretrial release.

“This is a serious case,” Murphy said, ordering Jo to report to pretrial services and not to have any contact with the boy, his family, the school or any other students at the school.

Jo is due back in court April 5 to be indicted.

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