A Chicago Public Schools principal engaged in nonconsensual sex with a teacher at his school. A teacher who made sexually charged comments to female students required them to write down their sexual fantasies for a graded assignment. And a vendor employee exposed himself to an elementary school student and inappropriately touched her multiple times.
Those were among the most substantial findings in the annual report of Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Inspector General, which was made public Monday morning.
While past reports have focused on misappropriation, residency violations and other district employee malfeasance, this year’s report includes data from the OIG’s new Sexual Allegations Unit (SAU), which was formed in the wake of the Chicago Tribune’s “Betrayed” series that detailed how systemic issues within CPS allowed hundreds of students to become victims of sexual abuse over the course of years.
The SAU – which focuses primarily on adult-on-student abuse – opened more than 450 new investigations in fiscal year 2019 while also completing 136 investigations over that same period.
In 34 of those completed cases, the OIG made substantiated findings, while the remaining 102 cases were deemed unsubstantiated. Most of the substantiated cases – 27 out of those 34 – involved lesser policy or guideline violations, often for inappropriate or unprofessional acts or comments that crossed boundaries with students, according to the report.
Some involved teachers sending texts or emails to students that weren’t sexual in nature, but otherwise violated district policy because they were sent through unauthorized channels.
“Although the violations in some of these cases might appear relatively minor,” Inspector General Nicholas Schuler stated in the report, “the district emphasized the importance of these policies for protecting children and thwarting grooming.”
But the larger cases ranged from failure to report sexual abuse to explicit sexual misconduct. In total, there were 15 SAU investigations that led directly to criminal charges, though only two of those were included in the annual report because they were the only ones that were completed and reported to the Chicago Board of Education in fiscal 2019.
Those included a vendor employee who exposed himself and inappropriately touched a preteen elementary school student multiple times over the course of weeks, and a school bus aide who approached a high school student from behind, touched her inappropriately and made a sexual comment about her body, according to the report.
The vendor employee was subsequently charged with five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, while the bus aide faces a charge of misdemeanor battery. Both criminal cases are pending, according to Schuler’s report.
In another case, a CPS teacher reported to the Chicago Police Department she’d been forced to have nonconsensual sex with her principal. The CPD investigation is ongoing, according to the report. Though the SAU doesn’t typically handle adult-on-adult misconduct allegations, the report states this was a high-priority case which had been referred to Schuler’s office.
The principal refused to answer any questions and immediately resigned following an interview with the OIG. That matter has since been turned over to the Illinois State Board of Education, which has opened its own investigation into the principal, according to the report.
In all, 36 people saw their employment with CPS come to an end as a result of SAU investigations, whether through terminations, resignation or retirement.
That included a teacher who required his students to write out their sexual fantasies and turn-ons in a journal entry as an assignment. The teacher retired after the OIG recommended his termination.
In response to the report, the district noted that it has taken steps to hold those accused of wrongdoing accountable, and has committed to making policy improvements aimed at preventing future misconduct.
“CPS is committed to upholding the highest standards for operational excellence and employee conduct, and we take seriously our duty to hold accountable any individual who commits serious breaches of district policy or seeks to cause harm,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a statement.
Outside of the sexual misconduct cases, the OIG also reported on the results of its 2014 investigation into a purchasing and reimbursement scheme involving CPS employees and vendors that resulted in the theft of nearly $900,000 from the district.
One employee pleaded guilty in 2019 to organizing a financial criminal enterprise, a Class X felony, which resulted in a six-year prison sentence.
Three other employees pleaded guilty to various misdemeanors and were ordered to pay between $1,000 and $10,000 in restitution. A trio of business owners also pleaded guilty to felony charges including conspiracy to commit a financial crime and were each sentenced to probation.
“The district appreciates the Office of the Inspector General’s continued efforts to investigate wrongdoing,” Bolton said, “as we work to ensure all employees and operations are held to the highest standards of integrity.”