An employee at Richards High School in Oak Lawn has been accused of secretly video-recording a female student changing clothes in the girl’s locker room after a physical education class.
Raymond W. Van Syckle, 31, of the 800 block of Shorewood Drive, Joliet, appeared before Cook County Judge Michael J. Kane on a charge of unauthorized video recording.
According to prosecutors, Van Syckle approached the 14-year-old girl before p.e. class on Oct. 30 and instructed her to leave class early to deliver some contracts for him to the high school athletic director.
Van Syckle is the pool equipment manager at Richards and assists the teacher during physical education class. Before the class ended, Van Syckle approached the student and asked about her Halloween plans and whether or not her parents would be at home, prosecutors said.
According to the charges, when it was time for the student to leave to deliver the documents, Van Syckle excused her from class. He warned her not to change in the stall area of the locker room because the floor had recently been treated with chemicals that would burn her feet.
While changing in the girl’s locker room, the student noticed a cell phone camera above some curtains of a window to a storage area directly across from where she was dressing, prosecutors said.
The student saw Van Syckle allegedly leaving the area. She wrapped herself in a towel and waited in a stall for the rest of the class to return.
After she changed back into her clothes, prosecutors said, she confided to a friend. When she heard Van Syckle calling her name, the students ran to the dean’s office, prosecutors said.
Richards High School administrators as well as the Oak Lawn police officer assigned to the high school, asked Van Syckle to come to the office. Prosecutors said he voluntarily turned over his cell phone, but changed his mind later that day.
A search warrant was obtained. Police found that a video had been deleted, but a photographic image of the partially clothed student remained, prosecutors alleged.
Van Syckle was taken into custody on Nov. 1 and transported to the Oak Lawn police station for further investigation.
Van Syckle allegedly admitted to asking the student to leave class early to deliver some documents, and warning her about chemicals on the floor of a certain area of the locker room. Prosecutors said he also admitted to being in the storage area at the time the student was changing to turn on the showers.
School administrators later told investigators the area of the girl’s locker room had been treated with chemicals after an earlier sewage problem, but it had been resolved prior to Oct. 30, the day of the alleged incident.
Van Syckle’s attorney objected to some of the details of the criminal complaint, but the prosecutor told the judge it was essential for setting bond.
The defendant’s attorney told the judge that Van Syckle was a graduate of Shepard High School, another D218 school in Palos Heights.
Bail was set at $75,000 along with special conditions bond. Van Syckle is not to have contact with children under age 18 except for family members. He is also banned from school grounds and from having any contact with Richards students, faculty and staff.
Arguing that while he didn’t have a problem with Van Syckle being prohibited from the Richards campus, Van Syckle’s attorney stated that Richards faculty and staff were his client’s “friends and colleagues.”
“I can’t image his friends and colleagues wanting to have contact with him right now,” Judge Kane said.
Dist. 218 Superintendent Ty Harting said in an email that Van Syckle was suspended without pay on Monday. Van Syckle has not been terminated, but Harting said the district is talking to legal counsel “about all options available to the district.”
Prior to the accusations, Harting said that Van Syckle has a clean disciplinary record during his eight years as an employee Community High School Dist. 218.
Harting also issued a written statement on behalf of Dist. 218:
“I can confirm there is an ongoing investigation and a staff member has been arrested and charged with unauthorized video recording. We are working in cooperation with the Oak Lawn police department and need to respect the privacy of the victim and let the investigation run its course. There is no immediate risk to our students. Any questions should be directed to the Oak Lawn police department. We have no further comments on this matter.”
Van Syckle’s next court hearing is Nov. 30 in Bridgeview.