The office of the inspector general (OIG) of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) opened 458 cases in 2019 that involved alleged sexual misconduct of CPS staff against students.
Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office released its annual report Monday.
The office received 2,175 complaints alleging “misconduct, waste, fraud and financial mismanagement” in the district throughout the past year, with 458 (21.06 percent) related to allegations of sexual misconduct by CPS employees against students.
Among the sexual misconduct cases opened by Schuler’s office last year, 37 involved “penetration,” 46 involved sexual abuse that included “groping” and “fondling,” and 64 involved “grooming,” or “actions to break down inhibitions for the purpose of sexual conduct.”
According to the report, many of the sexual misconduct cases were also investigated by the police, with 15 ending in criminal charges.
The OIG’s report observed its sexual abuse investigations “resulted in 155 temporary or permanent CPS personnel actions during Fiscal Year 2019”:
Most of these actions were decisions to remove employees from schools while they were under investigation to ensure that children were being protected. For 36 employees, the investigations led to the end of their employment with the district, either through termination, resignation or retirement.
Schuler’s office began investigating sexual abuse cases in 2018, in the wake of a Chicago Tribune probe into reports of CPS’s continued mishandling of allegations related to sexual misconduct.
He said while his office is able to hire 30 more staff members to address the challenge of the investigations, he has been unable to fill all the positions.
“It has been a huge undertaking,” he said, reported NPR station WBEZ, adding his office takes a “pretty cautious approach” to cases.
In addition to allegations of outright sexual misconduct, the annual report revealed several staff were disciplined for violations of CPS’s policy prohibiting staff from social media and texting communication with students:
Some cases involved text messages or other electronic communications from teachers to students that were not sexual, but nevertheless violated CPS policy for being sent via unauthorized channels. Although the violations in some of these cases might appear relatively minor, the district has emphasized the importance of these policies for protecting children and thwarting grooming.
In July 2018, the Tribune published results of its “Betrayed” investigation, showing that CPS had failed to protect students from sexual abuse and assault.
According to the news report, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse 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.”
In September 2019, Maggie Hickey, a former federal prosecutor who led an investigation into CPS’s system to protect children from sexual violence, wrote in her report that Sharkey had failed to respond to her inquiries about sexual misconduct against children in the CPS system.
“The Chicago Teachers Union President is the only person we contacted who failed to respond to our inquiries,” wrote Hickey, who had been hired to help CPS 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.”