After almost four months of pressure from the public, the Kenosha Unified School District has terminated 59-year old IT Staffer Michael Russell. On February 28, we told you that Russell was placed on administrative leave for allegations of misconduct. The Kenosha Unified School District didn’t release the harrowing details to the students, parents, or even, the police. In an email dated June 22nd, Kenosha Superintendent Jeff Weiss admitted to KCE that it isn’t the district’s policy to notify law enforcement for reports of sexal misconduct of staff. Law enforcement was only notified after our initial report went out. Russell has been accused by at least three young girls of sexual misconduct. One young lady is a former member of Mt. Sinai Church in North Chicago. She says that Michael Russell groomed her and had intercourse with her over a multi-year span when she was only in 8th grade according to Illinois court documents.
Russell is a trustee at the church. The church has another couple of familiar faces – Tamarra Coleman and her husband, Michael are leaders in the church. Michael is an associate minister at Mt. Sinai. In the court documents, it is alleged that the relationship between Russell and the little girl was common knowledge at the church. Tammara, who was the president of the Kenosha Unified School Board and is the current executive director of the Shalom Center, seemed to deny even knowing Russell. KCE later learned that not only does she know him, but he is her brother-in-law. Russell is married to her sister.
After being confronted with this news, she still denied knowledge of the alleged sexual assaults, but admitted she knew her brother-in-law, but told KCE “knowing someone and knowing their personal business is very different…And sir, the behavior of people I may or may not know do not define me, nor my character!” She wouldn’t tell us why she misled us initially and said she was calling her lawyer. Tamarra reportedly helped her brother-in-law Russell obtain a job at the Kenosha Unified School District in September of 2013.
The Kenosha Unified School district was notified of the allegations about the sexual assaults at the Illinois church in 2021. According to law enforcement records, the HR department kept an eye on Russell and told him not to allow any students to be in his Internet Technology room alone with him. A fellow employee of the High School, however, said the the School’s principal, Scott Kennow wouldn’t enforce this rule, and allowed Russell to have students alone in his room anyway. Russell assigned several girls to be his Teacher’s Assistants (TA’s) even though he didn’t have authority to do this. Principal Kennow also didn’t cooperate with the law enforcement investigation in Kenosha. He wouldn’t answer detectives’ questions. Current Superintendent, Jeff Weiss (D), wouldn’t tell us why he is so weak on sexual assault and harassment allegations in the district. This is the third similar allegation lately.
KUSD’s inaction would lead to two more young girls at the school being allegedly assaulted by Russell. According to the police report, a 17-year-old student reported that in November and December of 2022, Russell touched her breast in his office. He would also consistently touch her waist, and lower back. He called her sweetie. She reported that Russell would frequent cheerleading practice, although his job had nothing to do with that. She was concerned because of the revealing outfits the cheerleaders wore. She felt uncomfortable.
Another 17-year-old student reported that during the winter formal, Russell touched her above her breast and caressed her thigh where her dress had an opening. He asked if she “was 18 yet”. He wanted to go to the after-dance party with her but said he couldn’t because she wasn’t 18. She also reported other unusual incidents like him buying snacks for her and him telling her to take off his shirt.
The law enforcement investigation also discovered that Russell would messages other under-age students on Facebook and ask questions such as, “How’d you sleep last night?” He offered her $100 but she didn’t take it, so he gave it to another female student.
Kenosha Police Detectives briefed Kenosha Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Smathers about the two allegations of sexual assault. Smathers, who is being sued for defamation, declined to issue charges and told police to close the case. Russell wasn’t even charged with disorderly conduct. Nothing. Was asked Kenosha County DA Michael Graveley why and he didn’t immediately have the details.
Russell lawyered up and hired criminal defense attorney Brian Dimmer. He refused to answer questions from the police during the investigation.
KCE spoke to parents of some of the Kenosha-area alleged victims and were told they plan to sue the district for negligence.
KUSD spokesperson Tanya Ruder asked KCE to not “paint the district and/or district staff in a negative light” We politely refused.