CPS reviewing sexual abuse policies after investigation finds widespread issues

CHICAGO — CPS CEO Janice Jackson is promising new safeguards will soon be in place to ensure the safety of students from sexual crimes systemwide after a Chicago Tribune investigation that found CPS schools failed to adequately report cases of sexual abuse.

"I want to assure everyone no stone will go unturned as we work to protect our students," Jackson said Tuesday.

Former Simeon Career Academy coach Gerald Gaddy is now serving time for sexually assaulting at least three students there, but as a four-time convicted felon, actually should have never been hired in the first place. It's just one case of several spelled out in the extensive Chicago Tribune investigation.

In a statement, Jackson said as part of a plan to address the claims, the Board of Education tasked former U.S. Attorney Maggie Hickey with conducting an independent, top-down review of the district's practices in handling cases where students complain of possible sexual abuse. Hickey will issue a report prior to the start of the next school year, Jackson said.

Additional steps include more regular background checks for staff, an updated framework for investigating incidents, new policies requiring employees to report inappropriate conduct and a centralized screening process for coaches. During the 2018-19 school year, Jackson said CPS will retrain all employees on their responsibilities in these cases.

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, particularly when it comes to the adults who are to serve them," Jackson said during a press conference Tuesday.

Mayor Emanuel backs his CEO's reform efforts, and says a lot of people share in the responsibility.

"From principal, to teacher, to colleagues, the CEO, the bureaucracy, the mayor, we are all responsible," Emanuel said.

The issue has turned political among Emanuel's challengers in the ongoing mayoral race as well.

"An appalling lack of leadership, and I place it on the doorstep of the mayor. I mean.. the buck needs to stop," Paul Vallas said.

Former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy said schools, "ought to be the very places where our children should be the most protected."

"For far too many CPS kids and their parents, their schools, were not a sanctuary of safety," Lori Lightfoot said.

School officials ask anyone who witnesses signs of abuse to contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) 24-hour hotline at: 800-25-ABUSE, or 800-252-2873.