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Maine East teacher accused of having sex with student
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Jennifer Espinosa

 

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Published: 5/25/2009 1:24 PM | Updated: 5/25/2009 1:25 PM

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Two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse have been leveled against a teacher and former soccer coach at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, which authorities say stem from the woman's admission to having an eight-month sexual relationship with a former student.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, in a statement issued Monday, said Jennifer Espinosa, 38, of Park Ridge, told investigators she "loves" the 16-year-old boy, who was expelled from Maine East in September and is a known gang member.

Maine Township High School District 207 Superintendent Joel Morris said Espinosa has been reassigned to another job outside the classroom and that a pending investigation concerning her activities will be launched.

He said Espinosa won't be working at Maine East. Morris said the aggravated criminal sexual abuse accusations against Espinsoa will be addressed at a staff meeting set for today. He said a crisis team will be available for staff and students who need to talk after hearing the news about Espinosa. Police said the sexual relationship was discovered when sheriff's police investigators patrolling Golf Terrace Apartments in unincorporated Cook County happened upon Espinosa and the boy in a parking lot Saturday night. It was unclear Monday whether Espinosa was still held on 10 percent of a $50,000 bond at the Cook County jail.

An increase in gang and narcotics activity at the apartment complex at 9644 N. Golf Terrace, a couple of miles north of Maine East, led to the police investigation, Dart said.

Cops driving toward Espinosa's 2009 Hond Pilot detected a strong odor of marijuana, authorities said. No one else was in the area, police said, but sheriff's investigators noticed the Pilot's windows were rolled down.

After all occupants of the Honda Pilot were ordered out, Espinosa identified herself as a Maine East teacher, authorities said. The release stated officers recognized the 16-year-old boy and a 22-year-old passenger as known gang members.

Sheriff's police found a bag of suspected marijuana in the vehicle. That led to a misdemeanor drug possession charge against Alejandro Landi, 22, of Niles.

Espinosa said she was a teacher and mentor to the 16-year-old until he was expelled, according to police.

She purportedly told investigators their relationship bloomed after his expulsion and that they had sexual relations at her home and in her vehicle in areas near Maine East.

Espinosa is a married mother of two children, said police. She most recently was teaching science and special education at Maine East.

On her official Maine East Web page, Espinosa said she is a former boys and girls soccer coach for the school's freshmen, junior varsity and varsity levels. She also was the sophomore class council co-sponsor for one year.

"Currently, I am not involved in extracurriculars because I am spending more time at home with my two young daughters," Espinosa wrote.

Espinosa, who is scheduled for a Cook County court hearing Friday, May 31, states she joined Maine East for the 1994-95 academic year.

District 207 board President Edward Mueller said officials learned of Espinosa's arrest shortly after it happened Saturday.