David Jackson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune, is one of four reporters behind a bombshell series that has uncovered years of sexual assault and abuse of students by Chicago Public Schools employees.
The Tribune team scoured CPS and police records dating back a decade, finding more than 500 cases that in many instances CPS failed to prevent or did not properly handle.
“What shocked me the most was the frequency of these attacks,” said Jackson, one of the lead reporters on the series. “Obviously Chicago is a big school district but if you had asked me before we started how many cases was I expecting to find over a 10-year period I would have said maybe dozens, but it turned out to be hundreds.”
Among the most egregious cases was that of a Simeon High School track star who was raped and assaulted 40 times by her coach Gerald Gaddy. Simeon officials had been warned by the district to not allow Gaddy, who had four felony convictions for drug dealing, into the school, but he was nevertheless allowed to volunteer as a coach.
In another case, a substitute teacher at Black Elementary School was found to be grooming students with lewd texts and sexually graphic propositions.
Jackson says he was shocked by the failure of principals and teachers to abide by mandatory state reporting requirements regarding allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I was very surprised to see how often school personnel brushed aside the state’s mandatory reporting requirement,” Jackson said. “I don’t think there is an innocent explanation – I really don’t. Not just principals but everybody, every teacher, every janitor, lunchroom aids are all told about this and instructed about this and trained about this and it is reinforced. We found that a lot of these school personnel essentially felt like they were doing the right thing by the child by bringing the child over to someone else or by listening to them … But we also found instances where personnel and the principals were trying to essentially cover for the school. And that’s not innocent at all.”
The Tribune investigation also highlights the case of Robert J. Weaver who was a choir director at Payton High School.
“What really shocked me about his case was that he resigned quietly in 2012 – no notice to parents and the school community as to what happened, he was just gone one day,” Jackson said. “And it turns out that a school investigation found out that there were multiple victims of abuse going back to 1993.”
The final line of the school’s 37-page investigative report found that Weaver was making connections with students for the purpose of sexually exploiting them.
But the school community was never informed.
“It had been hidden from the school community. It wasn’t made public. It wasn’t until four years later that Weaver got charged with an unrelated child sex crime for allegedly having sex with the child of a family friend and for which he is now awaiting trial,” Jackson said. “CPS said very explicitly that his alleged crimes had nothing to do with his role as a teacher, but they were sitting on this report all along that they’d done in 2012.”
Jackson joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the Tribune’s investigation.