CPS Chief Responds to Scathing Investigation into Student Sexual Abuse

Chicago Public Schools says that by August it expects to have the results of a top-to-bottom review of its practices for handling cases of sexual misconduct.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson responded Tuesday to a searing report from the Chicago Tribune that outlines how the district mishandled dozens of cases of CPS students being sexually abused or assaulted by staff.

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In addition to the timeline for the review being completed, Jackson also said she heard from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who has offered to help strengthen the district’s employee training for dealing with trauma.

Jackson initially responded to the Tribune story last week, and she’s taking responsibility for what happened.

In addition to detailing changes, some of which are already in progress, she expects more from former Assistant U.S. Attorney and former Illinois Inspector General Maggie Hickey, who’s conducting the review of practices and policies. She acknowledges, however, that some of these policy changes should have been implemented long before the investigation.

“We’re proud of the progress that we’re making, but it’s a huge district and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Jackson said. “And you need consistency, not only at the school level but also at the top, to make sure that the right policies are put in place to bring about the type of systemic change that this district needs.”

Among the changes Jackson says she’s implemented are improving background checks by making sure existing employees are receiving them on a periodic basis, not just at the time of hiring; providing additional student support; strengthening its process for investigating alleged misconduct; updating employee training; and working with legislators to make it more difficult for predators to move between districts.

Jackson says one of her chief concerns is making sure principals, teachers, staff and volunteers know their responsibilities as “mandated reporters” – that is, if they know something, they’re required to report it to the Department of Children and Family Services, not just a supervisor.

Below, watch our entire interview with Jackson.

“I want every teacher, every staff member to know that their judgement is enough,” Jackson said. “If you see something that’s not right, if you see something that doesn’t feel appropriate, that you report it to the authorities, and the authorities will come in and do what’s needed.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also took responsibility Tuesday, offering his apology to the students and families hurt by this. Some of the folks who are vying for his job also weighed in, many of them criticizing the mayor and CPS administration, and offering proposed solutions.

The Chicago Teachers Union on Tuesday called for an independent task force of parents, students, clinicians, teachers and administrators to develop policies that will make schools safer.

For starters, they say, the district needs more school social workers and nurses who are specifically trained to address child abuse.

In a statement, social worker and CTU member Emily Penn said:

“The entire process in our schools is a bureaucratic mess. Where are the preventive measures? CPS, for example, has made no mention of Erin’s law, which mandates that schools teach body safety awareness and give children tools to report abuse in a safe way, as well as staff training to respond to concerns and report appropriately.”

Jackson says she welcomes their collaboration; she thinks it will be up to both teachers and administration to implement solutions.

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman

Related stories:

Behind the ‘Betrayed’ Series with Chicago Tribune’s David Jackson

2 Former CPS Students Sue Board of Ed Over Failure to Prevent Sex Abuse

CPS Failed to Protect Students from Sex Abuse: Tribune Report

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