Last year, videos were shared showing an employee at an Albany Park high school throw a student out of a door. Media coverage followed and the footage quickly spread on social media.
WTTW News has obtained records identifying the man and what discipline he faced.
Documents show Herbert Erby, a security guard at Theodore Roosevelt High School, was terminated in August following a discharge hearing.
Erby was seen on video grabbing a freshman student by the neck and arm. He threw the student to the ground, pinned him there and then pulled him to the exit doors, records show. Finally, he threw the student into the snow. WGN News first reported the story, which put staff and students at the school in the spotlight.
According to records from Chicago Public Schools, Erby was one of 42 security guards disciplined since January. From Jan. 1-Oct. 26, 2023, the district marked 12 security employees, including Erby, as do-not-hire.
An additional 11 guards are currently suspended during the investigative process, including three previously covered by WTTW News, according to data from CPS.
Records show approximately 40% of cases were for minor misconduct and resulted in written reprimands. About a third of all cases ended with a suspension. According to records, only two cases resulted in suspensions of 10 days or longer.
In June, five security guards at John F. Kennedy High School in Garfield Ridge were reprimanded for poor attendance, records show. Time card and attendance issues accounted for about a third of the discipline cases during this time period.
From Class to Cop to Coach to Court
While most investigations of security guards involved accusations of minor misconduct, others were more serious.
In 2020, the principal of Stephen T. Mather High School sent a letter to parents that said multiple unidentified staff members had been removed from the school for engaging inappropriately with students.
Winford Neely, 43, faced accusations of sexually abusing a student at Mather High School during the 2015-2016 school year, according to records.
Records show that Neely was employed as a security guard and basketball coach at the West Ridge school, and CPS records identify him as the individual from an Office of the CPS Inspector General report published this year.
A summary of the OIG report states a security guard sexually abused a 16-year-old student for approximately five months. In his capacity as a security guard, he pulled the student out of class to have sex in various locations in the school, such as storage rooms and janitor closets. He also sexually assaulted the student in his car and home, according to the OIG.
Neely stopped working as a security guard when he was hired by the Chicago Police Department in 2017, but was later approved as a volunteer, records show. The investigation also found staff members were aware of some questionable conduct directed at female students. None of the staff members reported their observations to school administrators, according to the OIG report.
While these staff members may have violated current CPS policies, they were not required to report this conduct under the CPS policies in effect at the time, records show.
Abuse allegations in the case were investigated by the Department of Children and Family Services, and classified as unfounded, records show.
Neely remains on a leave of absence by CPD following the Illinois State Police revoking his Firearm Owners Identification card, according to court records and a CPD spokesperson. Neely faces felony charges including sexual assault of a minor in Cook County with a bench trial scheduled for February.
Neely resigned from Mather before he was fired, records show, and the school district added a do-not-hire letter in his personnel file. According to the OIG report, CPS notified the Illinois State Board of Education about Neely’s indictment and the OIG’s findings. Neely’s name can be found on the list of Cook County officers who cannot be called to testify in court cases, records show.
“Mr. Neely has formally denied the allegations as evidenced by his plea of not guilty and looks forward to a favorable resolution of this matter,” Adam Sheppard, his attorney, responded in a written statement about the criminal case.
There were other cases involving allegations of abuse last year, too.
There were two cases of verbal abuse with a punishment outcome, including a Wells Community Academy High School guard who resigned her position before being designated as do-not-hire, records show.
Read more of our CPS security guards investigations:
- CPS Security Guard Charged With Sexual Assault of Student Previously Cleared Backgrounding Process Despite More Than 20 Arrests, 4 Convictions
- Suspended CPS Security Guard is 3rd Fired Chicago Cop Hired by District After Being on City’s Do-Not-Hire List
- CPS Suspended 2 Security Guards Last Month. Both Were Previously Fired Police Officers and Named on Chicago’s Do-Not-Hire List
‘He Ends Up Being Brutally Assaulted’
There were also multiple penalties connected to accusations of physical abuse, restraint or corporal punishment. Two security guards at John Foster Dulles School of Excellence were punished for improperly restraining a student who “attempted to run away” in an incident from October 2021, records show. One of the two guards was issued a 45-day suspension in the case, records show.
The CPS Special Education Chief resigned last year following notice from ISBE saying the district violated state law in its continued use of physical restraint. The letter, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, said the district failed to train its staff properly in the practice.
A press release from August last year by CPS said the district had met a state deadline to train employees on the proper use of restraint and de-escalation.
Those two practices were at the center of the investigation of the incident captured on video at Roosevelt.
In the administrative hearing, a law clerk summarized the events where Roosevelt security guard Erby “physically abused” a student who was asked to leave the cafeteria. “The Board has clear policies prohibiting abuse of students, which SSO (school security officer) Erby violated,” the report said.
The Office of Student Protections investigation said, “Erby’s actions demonstrate he is not capable of de-escalating students in a safe manner.”
Erby defended his actions at Roosevelt in the hearing, records show, and during an interview by phone with WTTW News. He claimed he was responding to behavior by a troubled student who attacked him first, and said school security was understaffed on the day of the incident.
Prior to his initial suspension, Erby had no disciplinary history, records show. He also does not face criminal charges in the matter.
The report said Erby’s actions were egregious because of the student’s injuries. It found evidence of misconduct including his use of physical restraint on a student in violation of procedures. The incident happened before ISBE sent the letter to CPS, records show.
Erby, who worked for the district since 2012, lists black belts in krav maga, a martial art developed for the Israel Defense Forces, and wing chun kung fu in the education section of his LinkedIn profile.
The family of the unidentified student filed a lawsuit against the district in December, records show. The complaint highlights the emotional harm done to the student after the video made the rounds in news broadcasts and social media, and describes how Erby wrestled the student “into interchanging supine and prone physical restraint positions.”
The lawsuit alleges Erby did not receive proper training in the practice of restraint, and highlights the emotional trauma from the episode.
The family’s attorney, Clinton Davis, said of the student’s time at Roosevelt, “This is his first year there, and he ends up being brutally assaulted on camera in front of all of his peers.”
Davis said the student had a tough path but managed to make it to his sophomore year after the incident. Davis said the physical response by a much larger security guard was inappropriate, and CPS’ failed policies directly contributed to the student’s injuries.
Davis denied the assertions about his client by Erby in an interview and in the lawsuit.
The school investigation identified Erby as the aggressor based upon an analysis of video and witness testimony, records show.
Erby also worked security jobs at restaurants and bars in addition to his job in educational settings, he said. A 2015 lawsuit accused Erby of bear-hugging a patron, slamming him into an ATM and punching him in the face in a sports bar in Niles, according to the complaint.
This case was dismissed. Erby denied the allegations.
The district responded with a written statement about the disciplinary process involving Erby and Neely.
“While we are unable to comment on pending litigation, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is committed to ensuring students have access to a safe learning environment,” a CPS spokesperson said.
Records provided by the district show Erby completed a 37-minute-long physical restraint and timeout training in September 2022, about four months before the incident at Roosevelt.