A former student of has made claims alleging he was sexually abused more than 20 years ago by a now-retired school teacher. The allegations by 48-year-old Jeff Lieber, a former Evanston Township High School student, were made on social media in September 2017, accusing the former educator of inappropriate sexual abuse. The alleged victim’s actions prompted the school district to contact the Evanston Illinois police force to report the claim.
Lieber now lives in Los Angeles and works as a television writer. He was a student at Evanston Township High School in the mid-1980s when he says his teacher fondled him while he was lying down on a school couch. The former student claims that the teacher “would grab male students, grope male students. I had multiple experiences where he would reach down my pants, and grab my [genitals].” Lieber also stated that “He’d kiss us, grope us and use his position as the gatekeeper to our passion for theater as a weapon.”
The Victim Remained Silent
Until now, the former student remained silent about the alleged abuse that occurred more than three decades ago, except to confront the accused acting teacher when the incidents occurred. However, Jeff was encouraged to write about his alleged past sexual abuse as accusations of sexual harassment came to light in early autumn 2017 against Harvey Weinstein, the renowned Hollywood movie mogul. Lieber stated that “The Weinstein thing made me aware that group silence can empower sexual predators.”
In the first 24 hours after the initial social media post, more than 300 comments were posted on the Facebook page, and many of those were from individuals who were explaining their personal experience with the teacher.
By early October 2017, the local media had not named the alleged sexual predator but did reach out to him by phone for a comment concerning the accusations. The retired teacher denied the allegations and had not yet been charged with a crime by local law enforcement. The accused teacher stated that “I’m not a sexual predator, for goodness sake. I’m a grandfather.”
A Letter Sent Home to Parents
After Lieber posted details of the incident online, officials from the Evanston Township High School District 202 sent a statement home with students acknowledging that the school was made aware of Lieber’s allegations. A portion of the letter sent by the superintendent of the high school stated that “Examples of sexual harassment include touching, crude jokes or pictures, discussions of sexual experiences, teasing related to sexual characteristics, and spreading rumors related to a person’s alleged sexual activities.”
The officials also became aware that the alleged perpetrator purchased a ticket to a school event shortly after allegations had been made to an event that was held that month. School Superintendent Eric Weatherspoon made a statement that the high school “issued a no-trespass order to this individual on October 12, 2017, to prohibit their presence on campus and at any school-related or school-sponsored activities and events.”
The superintendent said that the school district has begun an internal review and will remain cooperative with the Evanston Police Department investigation, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
An Evanston Police Investigation
When the school district reported the alleged incident to the Evanston Police Department, law-enforcement detectives began investigating the report of sexual assault made by Lieber against the retired school teacher. Police Commander Joseph Dugan stated that “somebody posted an allegation” when a school official “called us right away and made out a report” that provided detailed information about the accusation.
The commander also stated that “As soon the school found out, they notified us. We initiated an investigation, started reaching out to people on the social media site and furthered the investigation.”
More Students Come Forward
Since the initial posting on Facebook by a former student and now screenwriter Jeff Lieber in September 2017, more allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse have been reported by former students of the now retired ETHS theater department acting teacher.
By October 10, 2017, many former Evanston Township High School students began sharing personal stories on Facebook alleging that they had also been sexually abused by the acting teacher decades ago. At least 50 individuals have contacted the local police department to file a complaint or provide details of their own experience with the teacher.
By the end of October 2017, two lawsuits by male plaintiffs “John Doe” were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the former teacher Bruce Siewerth. The lawsuits allege that the now-retired ETHS drama teacher sexually abused students in the two decades he taught at the school and that the ongoing incidents were known there as an “open secret.”
According to Evan Smola, an attorney for a potential plaintiff expected to file a third lawsuit, “These types of acts don’t come to an end until people come forward. So, it’s really important that this is taking place, and I’m proud of the people that had the courage … to talk.”
Former ETHS student Jeff Lieber who was instrumental in bringing the story to light first by sharing his story on Facebook of being sexually abused is not a plaintiff in any lawsuit yet filed. However, he supports others in their legal quest for justice and will “serve as a witness” if needed. According to the Daily Northwestern, Jeff stated that “a lawsuit is a step in the right direction to discovering new information and holding a public examination of the allegations.” Former students including Lieber have expressed an interest in holding the teacher accountable by filing individual lawsuits in the future.
The Retired Teacher Responds
The alleged perpetrator Bruce Siewerth denied the allegations during an interview that aired on WGN in October 2017 stating, “I’m moving them around onstage and showing them what to do and stuff but not, not groping.” The retired teacher also stated that “I’m not Trump. I don’t understand it. So… I don’t get what’s going on or why it’s going on now.” The investigation by the Evanston Police Department is ongoing.