A second Fenwick High School alumna has come forward claiming longtime teacher John Quinn allegedly harassed her while she was a student.
Emma Seavey, a 2015 Fenwick graduate, detailed her encounters with Quinn in a video posted April 5 to YouTube, calling out the “daily sexual harassment” she allegedly experienced by him while she was a junior in his history class.
Among the incidents she described, Seavey spoke of instances where Quinn ushered her out of his classroom and wrapped his arms tightly around her. One time, she said, Quinn “slid his hand under my bra strap over my blouse.”
The video, which has surpassed 10,500 views since it was posted, came roughly a week after Helen Quinn Pasin, another Fenwick graduate, took to YouTube and accused Quinn of inappropriately touching her when she was a student.
Pasin, who claimed the incidents between her and Quinn spanned over the course of two years, from 2012 and 2014, has since released a three-part video, publicly reading stories submitted by other former students who have stepped forward and recounted Quinn’s alleged patterned behavior.
In one of Pasin’s videos, former students, some of whom asked Pasin to remain anonymous, recalled how Quinn “touched them freely” or would use racial slurs in the classroom. Pasin read a submission from one former student, who remembered Quinn “making sexual innuendos about me in front of a class.”
Helen Quinn Pasin and John Quinn are not related.
In Pasin’s video, she called Quinn her “abuser” and described instances where he, like Seavey, hugged her tightly and afterward ran his cheek against her face while asking about her “love life.” In one instance, Pasin said, Quinn looked her up and down “and [made] noises that sounded like he was growling” while hugging her.
John Quinn has since released statements through an attorney, his brother Thomas Quinn, denying both Pasin’s and Seavey’s claims and highlighting his commitment as an educator. Quinn, who is the younger brother of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a 1992 Golden Apple Award recipient and a decorated boys basketball coach, has been placed on paid administrative leave since allegations arose against him in late March.
“The accusation that John Quinn subjected a Fenwick student to sexual harassment over eight years ago is false. John has never sexually harassed any Fenwick student, at any time or in any place,” the most recent statement reads. “John has always put students’ interests first and has always participated in Fenwick’s internal processes for addressing student concerns. He intends to continue doing so in the future.”
Second accuser speaks out
During the almost nine-minute video, Seavey spoke about how the Fenwick teacher verbally harassed her in class in front of other students.
“Regardless of our lesson that day, Quinn would go out of his way to compare me to a marginalized woman and asked how it would feel if I were to be sexually assaulted by him,” she said. “Some examples of this include: ‘Ms. Seavey, if you were a Jewess and I was a Nazi officer, what would you do if I asked you to get down on your knees and pleasure me?’”
Seavey eventually told her parents and reported Quinn to school officials. Seavey said in the video she was then removed from his class and instructed to “avoid the entire wing of the building in which he taught for my own safety.” Both she and Quinn, Seavey said, were also advised to not talk to each other or about the incident.
“While I kept up my side of the bargain, Quinn did not,” Seavey said.
She went on, describing other ways her former teacher continued to seek her out.
“Quinn would make every effort to be as near to me in public places as possible,” Seavey said. “In the lunchroom, he would come and stand at the next table over or would talk to individuals at my table in a manner that was obvious: He was trying to be intimidating.”
“During my senior year, he would pick his moderator position during Mass, so that he was always at the end of my row, meaning I would have to walk past him to get communion,” she continued.
Even after Seavey graduated from Fenwick, she said Quinn often asked Seavey’s younger brothers and her now fiancé’s younger brother, all of whom also attended the school, about her, such as “how I was doing, where I was living and if I was still in a relationship with my now fiancé.”
“I should also add that he had none of these students in his class, so he was going out of his way to find them in the halls,” Seavey said.
In the video, Seavey said she reached out to the school twice since graduating in 2015, voicing concerns over the way Fenwick officials handled her allegations against Quinn.
In 2018, Seavey wrote to school officials and told them she was still experiencing “emotional reactions bordering on panic attacks” upon hearing John Quinn’s name. She reached out to school officials once more last year after allegations against a priest at the school surfaced. Through a community alert email, Seavey rehashed the incidents that occurred between her and Quinn, pointing out his “threatening and predatory behavior.”
Seavey said she received an email response from the school and was informed that Quinn was given a “last chance ultimatum.”
Fenwick responds, investigation
In an emailed statement released two days after Seavey’s video, the Rev. Richard Peddicord, Fenwick’s president, updated families on the school’s investigation into Pasin’s allegations of misconduct against Quinn.
Peddicord wrote that Fenwick “immediately launched a third-party investigation” once they were made aware of Pasin’s allegations against Quinn last December, and that investigation is now near complete.
When asked for details on when the investigation would conclude, Fenwick spokesman Scott Hardesty told Growing Community Media he had “not been given a specific timeline.” Peddicord, however, wrote in the email sent to school families that “Fenwick is well prepared to take prompt and decisive action based on the findings and the facts.”
The Oak Park Police Department previously confirmed that Pasin filed a police report with authorities last September. The report was later sent to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which declined to press charges, saying the statute of limitations had expired.
The detective investigating Pasin’s claims also requested and received Quinn’s personnel file from Fenwick High School last October. The investigator noted the file included allegations reported between October 2012 and May 2015 of Quinn “putting his arm around students, putting his face close to theirs, back rubbing and shoulder massages that made students feel uncomfortable.”
In that same report, the police also noted there was a “previous DCFS case against Quinn.”
That case was filed in May 2021, and the police report includes allegations of misconduct against Quinn dating back to 1990 with a male student.
Police attempted to contact the individual several times but were unable to reach him, according to a police report, which was obtained via a public records request. Police also wrote they notified the person once more, informing him that a report has been made but the “statute of limitations has expired and the incident is no longer prosecutable.”
The report says the investigation was closed.
Quinn, through his brother, also denied this allegation and maintained that he has never “abused a Fenwick student at any time or in any place.”
“Fenwick High School investigated this accusation at the time it was made,” the statement read. “John fully cooperated with that investigation. After concluding its investigation, Fenwick determined that the accusation was unfounded. The Oak Park Police Department also closed its investigation and took no action with respect to this accusation.”
In an April 7 schoolwide email, Peddicord informed families that Fenwick is a cooperating participant in the investigation and unable to relay specific details or aspects about the investigation. He urged that individuals with concerns related to employee misconduct at Fenwick are “welcome” to share their experiences and reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We promise you that we will act promptly and transparently upon learning the results of the investigation,” Peddicord wrote in the email. “We will continue to work every day to ensure our students feel safe and supported, and that they have the mechanisms in place to come forward with any concerns or complaints.”
For Seavey, in her video, she said she hoped her story would help “bring justice for myself and those subjected to similar abuse” by Quinn. Seavey, who now holds a master’s degree in social work with a specialty in mental health and trauma, counsels high school students.
“My largest concern, there, is Mr. John Quinn has continued to have access to students while teaching at Fenwick High School. I wish to see him be removed from Fenwick High School as soon as possible,” she said.