The investigation started Friday when East Moline police got a tip from an outside party about inappropriate text messages between Jason VanHoutte and a female student. East Moline police then began working with Moline police, because the crimes are believed to have been committed in Moline.
He led Orion’s Varsity High School football team to playoffs six out of the last seven years. Now his days as a coach and teacher may be over.
“Jason VanHoutte was arrested on an outstanding warrant for three Class 1 Felony Offenses of sexual assault,” said Jeff Terronez, Rock Island County State’s Attorney, during a press conference on Wednesday.
Some parents at the school were shocked to hear the news, including the wife of East Moline’s mayor.
“You’re always shocked when you hear something like this. Just wait and see if it’s true or not,” says Tricia Thodos, parent of a UT student.
“You’re kidding me?” exclaimed Tami Hilton, a parent of a UT student, “I have my second child here and I have a set of twins that’ll be going here in two years, so that does concern me.”
VanHoutte had just begun his 16th year of teaching at United Township this year. He was a social studies teacher held in high regard.
“Mr. VanHoutte was well respected teacher, well liked by students and colleagues, so we’re all in shock over this. We had no idea this was going on,” says Jay Morrow, UT Superintendent.
The three felony counts of criminal sexual assault stem from text messages between him and a female student that police say indicated they had sex at his home, at 1720 40th Street Court in Moline. The news is a rough way for United Township to start off the school year.
“We have to find a new teacher. It’s very difficult for the kids. That’s our most important concern, the kids. We have a veteran teacher who was excellent and we’ll have to find a replacement to continue that education process and that is very challenging right now,” says Morrow.
VanHoutte is on paid leave for now, but the School Board of Education will soon decide what to do about his employment.
“While these charges are pending against somebody, I think they should be put on suspension without pay, because I don’t think its fair to the other teachers,” says Hilton.
“Just wait and see…innocent until proven guilty,” says Tricia Thodos.
If convicted, Jason VanHoutte faces 4 to 15 years in prison, probation is not an option.
The United Township Superintendent says counselors will be available for the student victim and the school will help the family in any way needed. Any students having a hard time with VanHoutte’s arrest will also be able to talk with counselors. Meanwhile, a joint investigation continues between the East Moline and Moline police departments.
The school board will meet at the United Township administrative center at 7 am on Thursday to decide whether to leave VanHoutte on suspension or revoke his employment.