Emilie Morris’ sex abuse case died with her, but action in schools is just beginning

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ST. LOUIS — An infamous St. Louis sex abuse case is leading to safety changes at schools. It’s the tragic case of Lindbergh High School graduate Emilie Morris, whose death ended the investigation of an alleged abuser. Emilie’s story, however, lives on with a new child protection law.

The reported sex abuse involved cases from more than a decade ago at Lindbergh High School. According to a 2008 police report, school administrators failed to report the suspected sex abuse of another student.

Lindbergh High disputes this to FOX 2 saying, “The 2008 police report is incorrect. Our District records show that school administrators did in fact file a report to the Missouri Children’s Division, following the advice of our legal counsel.”

The man accused in the 2008 report was the same track coach questioned in the ’90s about Emilie Morris. Morris eventually went to police in 2013, many years after graduating. She agreed to wear a wire for investigators to record the coach talking about what happened when she was in High School in the ’90s. That led to sodomy charges until Morris died the next year at her apartment home. It was ruled suspicious by the medical examiner. Prosecutors dropped the criminal charge, which is why we can’t name the now-former suspect.

Illinois State Representative Amy Elik told us, “Emilie is not here to speak for herself, but many other people can be and are.”

Elik recently married into Emilie Morris’ family, through a cousin. She quickly became determined to strengthen Illinois’ law. She said, “Schools should always be safe places for children and teens.”

She sponsored Illinois House Bill 1975 that passed unanimously. It’s called Faith’s Law, for former Illinois student Faith Colson. Rep. Elik said her case “…very similar to Emilie’s situation and so this happens everywhere.”

Now awaiting Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature, Faith’s Law, among other things like requiring districts to create a professional code of conduct and expanding the definition of grooming to include “in-person,” not just through electronic means.

Elik says she’s not done as she sets her sights on keeping fired teachers from secretly moving to other schools. That can still happen right now in Illinois and Missouri.

“It’s not the end at all,” said Emilie Morris’ sister, Andrea. “This can happen to anybody, and grooming is a big part of that process. It puts the victims or the survivors in a place where they don’t even feel like there’s something’s going wrong even when there is.”

Lindbergh High School added what it’s doing saying, “…all current District employees are trained annually in their obligations to protect children, and the District complies fully with the law to keep our students safe.”

Missouri legislators passed a protection law for schools in 2019, but like Illinois, Missouri still allows confidentiality agreements for questionable teachers to move from job to job. Most states do. That’s despite a federal law called the ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ or ESSA that mandates states ban confidentiality agreements that allow teacher file scrubbing. The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating why so many states fail to comply.

The child protection group SESAME was helpful in helping Illinois Representative Amy Elik with her unanimous bill, Faith’s Law. You can find them here: https://www.sesamenet.org/

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