Tribune Exposes Rampant Sexual Abuse in Chicago Public Schools
Keeping kids safe in school is a major priority for parents. We live in a world where we dread the next mass school shooting, or the next drug epidemic. We trust school administrators and faculty to ensure students are given a stable environment to learn, free from harm. But that trust is easy to exploit, especially when children are isolated from their parents for a majority of the time. The Chicago Tribune has exposed just how deep this betrayal goes through a blockbuster report on the rampant sexual abuse in Chicago Public Schools.
Using police, public, and confidential records, Tribune reporters detailed more than 500 reports of rape, sexual misconduct, and sexual abuse in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) over the last decade. Their reporting revealed that hundreds of students were harmed across all CPS districts, sparing no area of the city. Teachers, coaches, security guards, deans, and even lunchroom aides were listed in the report. Many of the perpetrators were award-winning teachers and active members of the community.
Reading the Tribune report, it’s clear that CPS failed to protect students on numerous fronts. Ineffective background checks on employees exposed students to educators with prior criminal convictions, including arrests for sex crimes against children. Some teachers and administrators broke protocol by failing to immediately report allegations of abuse to child welfare investigators, or by questioning students and the accused employees before notifying the proper authorities. In one case, allegations against a security guard at a Chicago Public School were reported in 2011, but no record of the school taking action exists until 2014.
Even when cases of sexual abuse in Chicago Public Schools were investigated, CPS failed to protect students. CPS neglected to disclose to other districts former employees who had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of sexual abuse and harassment. CPS even acknowledges that they do not track child abuse committed by employees in a consistent or formal manner, which makes it difficult to determine an exact number of sexual assault cases.
The Tribune article also points out a massive conflict of interest in the way CPS investigates claims of sexual abuse. CPS assigns its Law Department to look into allegations, and uses the files to defend the district if the victim sues. The article points to a student of Simeon High School who sued the school district for monetary damages after alleging abuse at the hands of a coach. The CPS Law Department used information obtained from their investigation to attack the student’s credibility, asserting that the girl “factually consented” to the assault by not coming forward immediately.
In response to the reports of widespread sexual abuse in Chicago Public Schools, officials have pledged to reform hiring practices, background checks, and provide staff training and support for victimized students. But for hundreds of abused CPS students, the damage has been done, and any trust that was placed in their schools is gone. In the era of the #MeToo movement, the best they can hope for is that their stories will protect others from suffering similar abuse.