Jul 20

The Chicago Tribune recently released a report detailing widespread sexual abuse within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. Internal CPS documents revealed a total of 430 reported incidents of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment in the past seven years.

Approximately 230 of those reported incidents led to legitimate evidence of teachers and school employees committing sexual misconduct. That being said, the raw data is limited in scope. The data does not reflect specifics for each reported incident, often omitting the school, employees and students involved.

In order to dig deeper into this scandal, the Tribune cross-referenced CPS data with Chicago police data. From 2008 to 2017, police investigated approximately 523 reports of sexual abuse at school or on school grounds in Chicago. In terms of context, that is one reported incident per week over a 10-year span.

After cross-referencing the data, the Tribune isolated 108 reported incidents for an in-depth examination. Of those incidents, 72 involved CPS employees committing sexual misconduct against students.

Despite the in-depth nature of the Tribune report, it remains difficult to nail down an exact number of sexual abuse incidents in CPS schools. Part of the problem relates to the CPS approach to these events. CPS administrators admit that there was not a formal process for investigating and handling reports of alleged sexual misconduct.

Further compounding the problem, the CPS background check process failed to identify employees with criminal backgrounds and histories of sexual misconduct. Furthermore, the CPS system failed to share information with other districts about reported sexual abuse incidents in the recent past.

Even when students reported sexual abuse, the CPS system failed to notify law enforcement or a welfare department. That is a violation of the Illinois state requirement for reporting such incidents to appropriate authorities.

Specifically, if and when school employees learn of actual or suspected abuse, they are required to call the Department of Children and Family Services. The timeline for notification is immediate. School employees are not allowed to delay notification or simply notify administrators. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in criminal charges.

Notwithstanding these requirements, the Tribune discovered that certain CPS employees decided to conduct their own investigation. Rather than reporting incidents to the police or a welfare department, school officials interrogated the alleged abuser, the student victim, and other involved parties. And the Tribune discovered few instances where a failure to report resulting in criminal sanctions.

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(image courtesy of Redd Angelo)