CPS students to learn about Jon Burge era in new curriculum

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CHICAGO -- A new school year is underway and a new course for eighth graders and sophomores in Chicago Public School involves disgraced former police commander Jon Burge.

Jon Burge is a convicted felon who was a police detective and later commander who was fired by the department for using mental and physical torture and instructing his underlings to do the same to coerce confessions from as many as 200 suspects from the early '70s to the late 80's.

Burge was never convicted of these crimes per se but was years later convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice related to them and sentenced to prison.

Several suspects convicted under his watch eventually had their cases overturned and the city of Chicago has paid out more than $20 million dollars in civil awards as a result.

Beginning this year, CPS eighth grader and sophomores will formally learn of the Burge era which is part of a reparations package agreed to by Mayor Emanuel and the City Council in 2015.

As part of the lesson plan, students will learn about what has been termed institutional racism and corruption in the CPD ranks.

In unveiling the curriculum, Mayor Emanuel said, “Only by facing history directly and honestly can we heighten understanding of this dark chapter and increase our ability to confront its challenges.”

The curriculum was a collaborative effort by African-Americans, civil rights advocates, the teacher’s union, police officials and others.

The Chicago Police Union is taking issue with this new lesson plan saying while the FOP finds any sort of coercion repugnant and a violation of the oath to serve and protect it, “We also believe that the whole truth about this subject of police misconduct not be reflected accurately in your curriculum nor in the matter through which it came into being.”

That was said by Martin Prieb who went on to reference the Madison Hobley case in which he was as exonerated by former Governor George Ryan despite what the police union calls ample evidence he did set a fire that killed seven people.

At CPS's Whitney Young, parent Forest Brown agrees in the big picture of teaching the Jon Burge curriculum.

“Children should be learning exactly what happens in our city and not cover up and filter what they learn,” he said.

Burge was sentenced to four and a halfyears in prison. He was released in 2014.