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Vernon Hills coach, charged with sex assault, fired as police speak with more students

Cori Beard

Four former Vernon Hills High School students are now talking with police after an assistant soccer coach at the school was charged with sexual assault Friday, bringing the total number of students or former students involved to seven, according to police.

Monday night, the Community High School District 128 School Board voted unanimously to terminate the coach’s employment.

Cori Beard, 28, of the 300 block of Farmington Lane, Vernon Hills, was taken into custody for questioning Thursday evening shortly after a parent contacted a school employee, who then contacted police. She was charged Friday with 12 counts of criminal sexual assault and remanded to the Lake County jail on a $1 million bond.

Those charges stemmed from her actions involving two current students, police said.

The school board met privately behind closed doors to discuss Beard’s situation, among other personnel matters, and then voted swiftly upon returning to open session.

School Board President Pat Groody and Superintendent Prentiss Lea declined to take questions following the meeting. When asked if there was any indication other employees might have known of Beard’s activities, Groody and Lea provided a joint reply.

“We’re confident in the Vernon Hills police department and we’re letting them conduct the investigation,” Groody and Lea said after a brief conversation. “We will continue to cooperate with and assist their efforts.”

Earlier Monday, Patrick Zimmerman, Vernon Hills deputy police chief, said investigators were working on charges relating to a third current student when four former students came forward over the weekend. All seven individuals are male, he said.

“This is our top priority right now,” Zimmerman said. “Our entire investigations unit is working on this and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office is contributing personnel. The school is putting considerable effort into this, too.”

Investigators are arranging interviews with the four new individuals and are inspecting phone and social media records. Zimmerman said police were made aware of the former students after heavy media coverage of the initial charges over the weekend.

The alleged acts involved with Friday’s charges took place been December 2016 and February 2018, police said. Zimmerman said the time frame associated with the four former students is still unknown, but they were students when the alleged acts occurred.

“This is still an open investigation, we encourage anyone with information to contact us or a third party that can work with us,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said police immediately filed charges relating to the first two students in order to get Beard out of the school and away from children.

“We needed to get her out of there so nothing else could happen,” Zimmerman said. “Then once a suspect is removed it opens the door for kids to talk more freely and for us to see how large the scope is. I don’t believe she’s going anywhere. Even if she does make bond, they’re going to put some heavy restrictions on her.”

Beard has been an assistant coach for both the boys and girls soccer teams since 2013, according to a statement from High School District 128. The school board will take action on Beard’s dismissal at its next meeting.

Principal Jon Guillaume met with the boys and girls soccer team members Sunday evening at the school, according to a Monday statement from District 128. Voluntary meetings also took place with all employees at Vernon Hills and Libertyville high schools before school Monday.

The statement said administrators continue to cooperate with police.

“The district is providing counseling services to students and staff and encourages anyone with information regarding this investigation to contact the Vernon Hills Police Department,” the statement reads. “Anyone hesitant to bring information forward to the police is encouraged to talk to a VHHS teacher, school official or counselor. They may also have a family member, friend or advocate report information on their behalf.”

Zimmerman said investigators have looked into whether other adults or district employees were involved or aware of the sexual activity, but so far Beard is the only person of interest.

“It seems like a huge shock to the school district,” Zimmerman said. “They’ve been very transparent in promptly giving us the information we ask for and sending us stuff they’ve come across on their own.”

Zimmerman said Vernon Hills will likely wait to file any new charges until the investigation is complete.

News articles from the time indicate that Beard is a graduate of Vernon Hills High School and played soccer at the school.

She is set to appear in court again on Tuesday.



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