Idris L. Bridgeforth (Chicago Police)
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:13AM
A Chicago Public Schools staff member charged with fondling and sending sexually suggestive texts to a 14-year-old student has been removed from the school where he worked and remains behind bars on a $250,000 bond.
But a family member was in disbelief over the arrest of Idris L. Bridgeforth, 39, of south suburban Riverdale, who is charged with indecent solicitation and criminal sexual assault of a supervised victim, both felonies.
“The family’s side of the story is we don’t believe it. He has two daughters, so why would he mess with a child?’’ Maline Bridgeforth said. “He’s a decent human being. He’d do anything to help anybody. He loves his family and he’s a God-fearing man.’’
Bridgeforth is a paraprofessional, or career service employee, at Ashburn Elementary School in the 8300 block of South Saint Louis Avenue. He is also a coach and the school’s technology director, CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said, adding he is not a teacher as police initially reported.
He has been banned from all CPS facilities with pay, and a pre-suspension hearing is scheduled for next week to determine if he should be suspended without pay, Ziegler said.
Prosecutors said the victim, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who has known Bridgeforth since fourth grade, is a member of the girls’ basketball and track teams he coaches, and looked to him as a “father figure” and “mentor.”
Between December 2011 and June 2012, Bridgeforth gave the girl rides home from practices and sporting events, prosecutors said in court, and on several occasions, fondled her.
Bridgeforth was also allegedly “corresponding back and forth” with the girl via text messages.
Prosecutors said in court that on June 2, when the girl texted Bridgeforth about what he wanted for his birthday, he texted back that he “wanted her for his birthday.” When she replied he already had her, he texted back, “not in the way he wanted her” and that he wanted her “more intimately,” according to court records.
Early Wednesday, the girl’s mother saw a text message coming in on her iPod Touch late at night, wondered who would text her so late and read the text messages, prosecutors said. When she recognized Bridgeforth’s number, she confronted the girl, then contacted the school. The victim also spoke to her homeroom teacher.
Bridgeforth was arrested Wednesday and allegedly admitted to having inappropriate contact and sexual conduct with the victim, according to court records.
In court, he was ordered held on a $250,000 bond.
Prosecutors said he has no criminal record, and Maline Bridgeforth said he has two 15-year-old daughters.
But prosecutors noted that he was discharged from the U.S. Army for making false official statements, larceny and presenting a false claim.
“Inappropriate behavior between employees and students is inexcusable and not tolerated by CPS at any time,” spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said Thursday.
“Schools should always be a place where parents and students feel safe and secure. We took immediate action to remove the employee in question from the school and are cooperating with CPD in this investigation,” she said.
Contributing: Rosalind Rossi