Chicago Public Schools has been heavily scrutinized over the past four years for its widespread mishandling of sexual abuse complaints, perhaps more than any other failure.
The Tribune’s 2018 “Betrayed” series uncovered system-wide predatory behavior in Chicago schools, and officials from ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to former schools chief Janice Jackson vowed to better protect kids. As the feds investigated, CPS created a new office of student protections, moved investigations of adult-on-student abuse to its inspector general’s office and instituted new training for staff — none of those meant to be same-day fixes, rather signs they were beginning to move in the right direction.
The district hired private counsel to work with an in-house attorney to defend against the complaint. In court filings the lawyers call the student’s testimony “self-serving” and cast doubts as to whether an assault even occurred. They’ve questioned the boy about whether the alleged attack was consensual and if anyone has told him it’s bad to be gay. Meanwhile the student’s parents say they never once were offered any type of support by CPS, even before they sued. Needless to say, they’re upset and demoralized that this process has dragged on.
“They dropped the ball,” the boy’s mother told me this week. “And now they’re trying to blame him because they can’t just acknowledge that they did this, and this happened under their watch.”
CPS makes legal arguments in court denying liability. But it won’t answer questions about the case — the district never comments on pending litigation. I asked more general questions, though, such as how the district determines which alleged victims to fight in court and whether it’s appropriate to put up those fights if they publicly say they’re supporting their students. They didn’t answer that, either.
Keep an eye out for updates in this lawsuit this month. A hearing Tuesday was postponed until today, where the judge will hear arguments for CPS’ motion for summary judgment. If the judge denies the district’s request to rule in its favor, a trial is set for Feb. 17. We’ll keep you posted on any big developments.
Until next week,
Nader Issa, Sun-Times education reporter
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