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Sister Testifies Against Fired Teacher; Says Rape Story Seemed Untrue

June 26, 1985

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) _ A former novice nun fired from a teaching job for immorality had told her sister of having sex with a Roman Catholic deacon and probably lied about being raped in order to keep her job, the sister says.

Margaret Johnson was called Tuesday to testify against her sister, former teacher Jeanne Eckmann, 36, in Miss Eckmann’s $25 million suit against the Hawthorn school board in nearby Belvidere.

Miss Eckmann, who was in a convent for three years before teaching in a public school, charges in her federal suit that school trustees violated her civil rights and defamed her by citing immorality among grounds for her dismissal.

She contends she was fired for keeping her son, who she says was conceived when she was raped in 1980 by a hitchhiker. Miss Eckmann testified she didn’t report the rape because she was afraid no one would believe her.

School trustees have testified they doubt Miss Eckmann was raped. But they say she was dismissed for belittling and abusing students and causing dissension among staff members.

Ms. Johnson testified that in late November or early December 1980, her sister told her of having had sexual relations with a Roman Catholic deacon.

Miss Eckmann began teaching public school after leaving the School Sisters of Notre Dame convent in St. Louis. She did not take her final vows.

Later, Ms. Johnson said, Miss Eckmann told her she had been raped on the way home from a religious retreat in Kansas by a hitchhiker with a knife.

″I didn’t feel she was telling the truth about the rape,″ Ms. Johnson said. When asked if she thought Miss Eckmann had lied to the board to keep her job, Ms. Johnson said, ″Yes, I think she did.″

Also Tuesday, a former district secretary, Barbara Duess, testified that in September 1979, Miss Eckmann smashed a piece of cake in her face at a staff picnic.

Dr. Alice Mijanovich, who was Miss Eckmann’s doctor from 1978 to 1981, also testified Tuesday, saying Miss Eckmann told her in January 1980 that she felt she was being tormented by teachers and school administrators .

″I thought she was quite paranoid about this,″ Ms. Mijanovich said.

On Monday, a former school superintendent, Richard Peltonen, testified that Miss Eckmann was ″vindictive and malicious to her students.″

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