In a shocking report released over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune revealed that Chicago Public Schools has investigated more than 500 incidents of "sexual misconduct" within the school system, and more than 100 of those incidents involved an adult preying on minor children.
The Tribune's story includes an interactive map that describes each one of the 108 cases of sexual misconduct involving an adult in charge of a student, and reporters identified at least 72 individuals — most of them CPS employees — responsible for the overwhelming number of allegations.
In some cases, Chicago Public Schools let abuse go on and complaints pile up for years before taking action. And the problem was endemic: incidents occurred across the city, in both rich and poor, white and minority neighborhoods, in nearly every school in the system.
Illinois — and federal — law requires that schools investigate complaints of sexual abuse and report the incident to child protective services. But in most cases, the Tribune found, "teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law."
Even when administrators took swift action, students were harmed. "[T]hey subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, inflicting more psychological pain and defying basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation."
In one case, administrators ignored complaints about a choir director for more than two decades before finally taking action in 2014, only to have the security guard resign just hours before CPS released a "devastating" report on his actions.
The Tribune also found that CPS failed to perform basic background checks on support employees, "expos[ing] students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children." When those same educators resigned after investigations that revealed criminal misconduct, CPS didn't report what they'd discovered.
Part of the problem was that Chicago police authorities are busy handling more pressing issues. Chicago's students not only suffer violence from their teachers, but within their neighborhoods as well. But the Tribune found that CPS bears quite a bit of responsibility because they both conducted the investigations into their own employees' alleged misconduct, and then employed their legal department to block inquiries into what was being done about problem staff.
"Experts say CPS creates a conflict of interest by assigning its Law Department to investigate allegations of abuse and then drawing on the investigative files to defend the district if the victim sues," the Tribune reports.
When the Tribune approached CPS with its findings, CPS responded by suggesting they had room to improve.