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Lake Park Releases Probe Results, Coach Removed

Paul Steinbach

Lake Park High School District 108 in suburban Chicago announced Thursday that it removed head football varsity football coach Chris Roll following an internal investigation of how a convicted sex offender was permitted to serve as a volunteer football coach this season.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, district officials determined that Roll failed to follow district-required criminal background check procedures and “directed an assistant coach to remove the volunteer coach” from a list of names submitted for a background check, according to a statement.

The district said it will recommend the board of education take further disciplinary action against Roll, who was suspended Oct. 25 but allowed to return to his district teaching position today. The district also said that Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer and principal Dominic Manola, who were allowed to return to their positions today after being played on administrative leave during the investigation, are to be disciplined, the Tribune reported.

Related: How Did Sex Offender Become Lake Park HS Volunteer?

The investigation also found that the athletic director had questioned Roll mid-season about the identity of the volunteer coach, 72-year-old Frank Battaglia, according to the district’s statement, but failed to require a criminal background check “based on Roll’s response that the volunteer coach had limited involvement coaching and interacting with players."

The district’s statement added that the principal neglected to report a conversation midseason “in which he was told the volunteer coach has a background which could prevent him from working with student athletes.”

Battaglia pleaded guilty in 1992 to aggravated sexual abuse while serving as a football coach at a Catholic high school. He was in his mid-40s at the time, and his victim says she was 14. He was sentenced to 24 months’ probation and counseling, and was barred from coaching school athletics as a term of his probation, according court documents cited by the Tribune. His probation was terminated satisfactorily in 1993.

The school district requires head coaches to submit their team’s coaching roster — including all paid and volunteer coaches — for a criminal background check “before the coach begins their coaching duties,” the statement said.

Earlier this week, Gene Nudo stepped down from his position as head football coach at private Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill., before the team's playoff appearance. The Tribune revealed that he too had taken on Battaglia as a volunteer assistant back in 2016 without subjecting him to a required background check.

The Tribune also reported that by late Thursday, roughly 6,000 people had signed an online petition demanding Roll be reinstated immediately.

“Chris Roll is a man, coach and teacher of impeccable character, as evidenced by the hundreds of individuals who have shown up to support him at the (board of education) meetings,” the petition says. “The time and sacrifices Chris Roll has made for our community are remarkable and immeasurable.”

However, a woman who identified herself as a mother of a Lake Park student and who asked to remain anonymous said, “The trust is gone and broken.

“Whatever (Roll) has done for the community, this does not negate the fact that he put all of our students at risk and in danger with a predator.”

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