By Eric Garfias ’19
It’s alright to be questioning the safety of students and minors given the recent Catholic Church scandal and even more cases of abuse happening in the workplace, including school. And rightfully so, considering that school is somewhere where students are supposed to learn and should not have to worry about their safety. Given this, how often do you think or hear of sexual abuse cases happening in Chicago Public Schools?
This topic first came into light for me during the last few weeks of Junior year. The school year was so close to being done and summer break was bleeding in. That was when we found out that a Noble teacher was arrested for inappropriately touching a 17-year old male student. From there, the A1 journalism class got curious and began to look up how frequent, to how many cases have happened like this in CPS. We got our answer: too often, and we don’t hear about it.
We started our own ‘mini-investigation’ with an article published by the Chicago Tribune, in it where it is highlighted that these cases happen a lot more than people think, and definitely a lot more than what they should. The article also provides and search engine where one can type in a specific CPS school name and check whether or not an event has been reported, when, and if it resulted in an arrest. The Tribune pressured CPS to disclose its numbers and it turns out that more than 520 cases have been reported within the last 10 years. The article also provided some in-depth looks at certain cases where a teacher or school staff member stood trial for sexual misconduct. Such cases as a track star getting raped by the coach and started to cut classes to avoid said teacher.
This mess wasn’t the result of a single mistake in CPS, it was multiple issues that fell under the same tree: there was no system in place. When a staff member was let go because of the evidence that they were involved in abuse, CPS did not record such cases/events which allowed the staff member to still be employed in other districts. Yes, they did not have a system in place to keep track of teachers that could pose a danger and threat to other students, which is absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention that writing this article (Betrayed) required a threat of a lawsuit as CPS did not want to provide the information involving the cases.
Over the summer, CPS has made changes to their system in order to better protect the students. 3 Million dollars were used to conduct background checks on all CPS employees, whether it be from teacher or custodian. As of then, more than 200 employees have been let go and not returned to work amid abuse accusations and/or confirmed reports. CPS failed its students. Being one of the largest school systems in the nation, this is a disgrace. We’re not talking about what school gets new pencils and who doesn’t, no. This was about the safety and innocence of children and teens who were supposed to feel safe, but who were ultimately really betrayed.