‘If we don’t condemn it, we condone it’: Victim of volunteer coach’s sexual abuse in the ’90s speaks out

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ROSELLE, Ill. — The head football coach at Lake Park High School was removed from his coaching duties earlier this week after an investigation found a convicted sex offender was allowed to help coach the team.

Lake Park High School District 108 administration launched an investigation after it came to light that a volunteer varsity football was convicted of sexually abusing a minor in 1992.

The victim, Debbie Sciortino, is now 44. She spoked to WGN News on Thursday.

This week, Sciortino saw the headlines and learned that Frank Battaglia, the man convicted of sexually abusing her, got help from fellow football coaches, first at Fenwick High School in Oak Park then at Lake Park High School in Roselle.

Head football coaches at both schools failed to conduct a background check on Battaglia that would have revealed his criminal history that would have kept him away from kids.

At Lake Park High School, the head coach Chris Roll, “…failed to follow the required criminal background process and directed an assistant coach to remove the volunteer coach from the list of names submitted to Human Resources for a background check. As a result, the volunteer coach was never subject to the District’s required criminal background process.”

Roll has been stripped of his coaching job, but is being allowed to teach.

Sciortino said she finds it “baffling.”

“He’s not being reprimanded in my eyes,” she said. “He’s not being held accountable. …  If we don’t condemn it, we condone it.”

In recent days, when Roll was suspended for allowing a convicted felon to work with players on the team, parents came running to the beloved coach’s defense.

At Fenwick High School, officials terminated head coach Gene Nudo last week, on the eve of the playoffs, for allowing Battaglia to coach in 2016 without submitting to a background check. Nudo and Battaglia coached together at Driscoll High School in the ‘90s around the time of Battaglia’s conviction.

“Nobody’s held accountable,” Sciortino said. “He was a volunteer at the school which is unacceptable. The people who still had a job coaching still go in to the classroom so they are still around these students that they went to great length to not protect.”

The principal of Lake Park High School is being disciplined, as is the athletic director, but all will be returning to their teaching and administrative positions effective Friday.

There are no allegations that Battaglia engaged in inappropriate conduct at Fenwick or Lake Park High School.

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