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Bertino-Tarrant, committee look for answers on CPS sex misconduct

ed hearing 062018

CHICAGO – Members of the joint Illinois Senate and House Education Committee met Wednesday to address the findings of a Chicago Tribune investigation which detailed improper reporting of sexual misconduct in Chicago schools.

The investigation found 72 Chicago Public Schools employees were accused of misconduct over a 10-year period and not properly reported to authorities. Several went on to commit abuses at Chicago Public Schools and many were hired again elsewhere even after being investigated.

State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), chairwoman of the Senate’s education committee, is calling for urgent action to institute proper protocols to ensure this never happens again.

“It is unacceptable that sexual predators were not only near our children, but in positions of trust,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Everyone should be angry that these abusers were able to prey on students because of insufficient oversight.”

Bertino-Tarrant invited advocates and stakeholders to Wednesday’s hearing to discuss how to close loopholes and instate stronger policies. First on the list was properly sharing information with other school districts and completing more thorough background checks on prospective employees.    

State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) participated in the hearing today. She believes the allegations reveal a shocking betrayal of the trust that families place in public schools to nurture and protect young people.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson was not present at the hearing at the Bilandic Building Wednesday.

“Dr. Jackson’s absence today is inexplicable. The CPS witnesses were not the decision makers and they failed to answer many of the more detailed questions required to discern negligence,” Collins said. “The Chicago Public Schools system is a public entity, accountable to the public. We should have heard from the CEO today.”

Two survivors of sexual assault at CPS presented testimony to illustrate the injustices they experienced while at school.

“I was pulled from class to sit alone in a room with an old man who asked not how I felt or what they could do to make me feel safe in my school again, but what I was wearing when I had been assaulted,” said survivor, Morgan Aranda, now 22. “Do you know what it’s like to be made to feel like a criminal, when you are in fact the victim?”

There was a common theme of insensitivity toward students who reported their abusers. The victims were not given emotional support and were left in the dark regarding updates on the investigation.

Victims did not know if or when the educators would be removed from the classroom and they were interrogated without advocates or parents present. The Chicago Police Department was not notified by CPS administrators in either case.

“Every word of these testimonies was heartbreaking,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

The committee also heard from CPS officials who are going to advocate for additional laws at the state level to prevent similar cases from happening again.

“New laws are not going to solve the breakdown in command,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Who is responsible? We keep talking about what will happen in the future but there is an obvious failure that needs to be addressed.”

Cases of abuse at CPS have been reported in the media as early as 1986. Some committee members said CPS’ handling of these cases resembles a cover-up.

“I have worked in Will County schools for years. I know there are state protocols in place. It is evident that CPS schools failed to comply with existing laws,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “We are going to explore ways to tighten up procedures and ensure our children have safe learning environments.”