Experts Weigh in on Efforts to Protect CPS Students From Sexual Abuse

Maureen Kelleher:

In the wake of the Chicago Tribune series, “Betrayed,” which revealed hundreds of incidents where school and district leaders failed to follow proper reporting procedures when educators sexually abuse students, Chicago Public Schools has taken steps to correct its practices.

In June, CPS announced it would create an Office of Student Protections and Title IX with a budget of $3 million and 20 staff positions, according to a recent Chicago Tribune story. The office will be responsible for both staff training and coordinating responses to incidents of sexual assault and abuse, including reporting them to police and child welfare investigators. 

The district has taken further steps to change how cases of child sexual abuse in schools are investigated–providing training to ensure school staff report all suspected abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services, as required by state law, and shifting responsibility away from its own law department–a conflict of interest–to the CPS Office of the Inspector General, the independent body that investigates misconduct and mismanagement in the district.

Today, CEO Janice Jackson will be speaking at the City Club about the district’s efforts to address sexual abuse, as well as announcing the hiring of 250 new social workers and special education case managers. She’s very likely to be asked questions about the district’s continuing response to the Trib’s revelations regarding child sexual abuse, too. (Update: while the City Club audience did not ask questions on the topic after her remarks, the toughest grilling she received was from talk show radio host William Kelly during a brief Q and A with press after the event.)

As both a reporter and the mom of a CPS student, I wanted to know what experts thought about the steps the district is taking. So I spent most of last week reading policy papers and speaking with experts. (See the end of this post for full bios of the experts I spoke with.)

Here’s what I learned.