Former Prosecutor: Chicago Teachers Union Failed to Respond in Child Sexual Violence Probe

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey speaks at a rally ahead of an upcoming potential strike on September 24, 2019 in Chicago. With Chicago teachers demanding increased school funding, pay raises, and more healthcare benefits, the rally also featured Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who praised …
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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) did not respond to inquiries regarding an investigation into Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) system to protect children from sexual violence, says the former federal prosecutor who led the study.

“The Chicago Teachers Union President is the only person we contacted who failed to respond to our inquiries,” wrote Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor hired to help Chicago Public Schools overhaul its Office of Student Protections and Title IX. “We made multiple attempts to contact him by phone, by email, and through his assistant and office, during both our preliminary and follow-up evaluations.”

Hickey made that statement about CTU President Jesse Sharkey in a footnote to her 134-page report, titled “Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct against Students in Chicago Public Schools.”

Her statement comes as CPS and the teachers’ union are approaching a strike deadline on October 17.

CTU spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said two of the emails from Hickey and her team were later found in a junk email folder and never read, reported the Chicago Tribune.

“We have an aggressive spam filter and these two emails were never seen or forwarded,” Geovanis said, adding that no one in the union office recalled phone calls or messages from Hickey or her team.

“I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but there is no record of a phone call and staff have no recollection,” Geovanis continued. “We’re disappointed that once again we missed the opportunity to talk to Ms. Hickey and her team.”

According to the Tribune, Sharkey failed to respond to Hickey’s team in 2018 when it had concluded a preliminary report on sexual abuse and harassment of students in the district.

“We were particularly interested in meeting with him in advance of our final report, and made numerous efforts to meet with him,” said William Ziegelmueller, Hickey’s law firm partner who assisted her with the report. “Unfortunately, he responded to none of them.”

Geovanis, however, denied that Hickey’s team reached out to Sharkey or the union last year.

In July 2018, the Tribune published results of its “Betrayed” investigation that showed how CPS had failed to protect students from sexual abuse and assault.

According to the news report, Sharkey said he and union members were “horrified” by results of the investigation that showed over 500 police reports of sexual abuse or assault of a student over the last ten years.

“Union officials said at the time that protecting students was a top priority,” the Tribune reported. “But as the months went on and CPS began implementing stronger background checks and other reform measures — and terminated numerous teachers suspected of misconduct — tensions emerged between the union and CPS administrators.”

Ziegelmueller showed the Tribune copies of three emails he sent to Sharkey in which he requested a meeting in June and July, the news report states.

The attorney said he also made several attempts to reach Sharkey by phone and left messages.

“More than a month has elapsed since I reached out to you,” Ziegelmueller wrote in his final email on July 16. “We plan to complete our investigation this month and finalize our report shortly thereafter, so we really need to get a meeting scheduled soon.”

The purpose of the requested meetings was to evaluate the child protection policies affecting teachers as a new system was put into place.

While the follow-up report stated CPS “has vastly improved its overall infrastructure for addressing sexual misconduct,” it also noted, “there is more work to be done.”

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