Chicago, Illinois: Chicago school authorities have fired six employees, banned four substitute teachers and denied 33 other adults from campuses over sexual misconduct investigations.
A number of criminal charges stem from investigations that started last fall following a Chicago Tribune investigation into the district’s responses to past misconduct accusations. Six workers have been fired and about three dozen suspended over the last few months, Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler told the board of education at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
Investigators told the board the district has investigated more than 400 reports dating back to 2011 of school employees sexually assaulting, abusing or harassing students.
“My sense is that this is an uptick from where we were before the [Chicago Tribune investigation],” Schuler said.
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“People are reporting more regularly. That’s not to say everything is reported, so we need to be diligent about making sure we keep on top of making sure that everything that should be reported, is.”
The district said the suspended employees include 12 teachers, eight security guards, five vendor employees, four bus drivers or aides, a dean, lunchroom monitor, custodial worker and a special education classroom assistant. Seven of the investigations have been taken over by the police, resulting so far in two criminal cases.
The school has received more than 930 claims overall since September — most focusing on student misconduct against other students, like inappropriate touching, harassment, sexual violence and inappropriate electronic communications.
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“We anticipated there would be an increase in reports of abuse,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said.
“Victims feel more comfortable coming forward because there’s more confidence that something will actually be done. I want them to know they have an ally in me and … we encourage them to continue to come forward. It is the most important priority for us,” she added.
Chicago city officials scolded school officials in November for allowing so many misconduct cases to linger unresolved. The district has since opened an office to directly take complaints.
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Thirty-three workers have been pulled from Chicago Public Schools in the last three months as the number of sexual misconduct complaints against staff and students and filed to the district’s new Office of Student Protections since the fall approaches 1,000.
Those 33 staff members are out pending investigations, while four substitute teachers have been blocked from the district, one employee retired after being confronted with allegations and six were fired as a result of investigations, CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler told the Board of Education at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
Schuler’s office is investigating 136 complaints from minors against school workers dating back to Oct. 1, with at least five new cases popping up since the start of this year.
Schuler said the complaints ranged from alleged sexual assault to inappropriate texting to “generally creepy or concerning behavior” that’s more difficult to categorize.
“People are reporting it more regularly,” Schuler said. “That’s not to say everything is reported.”
The employees removed pending investigations include 12 teachers, eight security guards, five vendor employees, four bus drivers or aides, a dean, lunchroom monitor, custodial worker and a special education classroom assistant.
Police have taken over seven investigations — including four involving sex acts — and aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges have been filed in two cases. Details on those cases weren’t immediately available.
CPS’ Office of Student Protections — established last summer in the wake of a Chicago Tribune series documenting widespread district mishandling of abuse allegations — is probing hundreds of additional cases concerning alleged student-on-student abuse.
The district had received 932 complaints between Sept. 4 and the end of 2018, according to Doug Henning, the new office’s interim director. That’s up from the 624 complaints that had been filed by late November.
The district said in November that it had dismissed 128 employees after redoing background checks on all workers and volunteers.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said “we anticipated there would be an increase in reports of abuse.
“Victims feel more comfortable coming forward because there’s more confidence that something will actually be done,” Jackson said. “I want them to know they have an ally in me and . . . we encourage them to continue to come forward. It is the most important priority for us.”
Education Board President Frank Clark noted the 55 teachers probed by Schuler’s office account for about one-third of 1 percent of the district’s roughly 19,000 teachers.
More than 80 percent of the cases reported to the Office of Student Protections — 763 cases — were student-on-student cases, with 84 cases involving CPS-affiliated adults. Students also reported 85 cases involving adults not involved with the district.
The “bulk” of the cases were alleged to have happened off CPS property, Henning said.
Schuler’s office has also enlisted outside law firms to help investigate the district’s handling of more than 1,000 allegations dating back to 2000, including 18 “significant” cases that are being probed by a firm founded by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Just 10 cases being handled by Schuler’s office came from charter schools, or 7 percent of his caseload.
“My gut feeling is they seem underrepresented on a per-student basis,” Schuler told board members.
Also on Wednesday, board members renewed a slew of contracts for charter school networks, including a five-year pact with the Noble Network of Charter Schools, whose founder Michael Milkie stepped down amid investigations accusing him of “a pattern of inappropriate behavior,” namely dancing with a former student.
Charters had to sign letters agreeing to “additional terms and conditions,” including requiring them to notify CPS “when they have issues involving sex abuse or key personnel so the district can exercise appropriate oversight of those types of claims and make sure they’re being investigated,” CPS general counsel Joe Moriarty told board members.
CPS have officials have declined to describe the other “terms and conditions” signed on by charters until they’re delivered in February.