Lawmakers take on CPS sex abuse

CHICAGO -- In its investigative series, the Chicago Tribune shined a spotlight on more than 500 cases of sexual abuse and violence against CPS students. The reporting also raised questions about laws on the books to protect children.

As the district tries to get to the bottom of it, state lawmakers are on the case. Sen. Jacqueline Collins, a Democrat, is demanding CPS officials take questions from lawmakers.

“Simeon is in my district,” Sen. Collins said. And when you read the account of the young woman who was raped 40 times by this coach … and then even when it was reported to the principal, he sort of brushed it off. … There are already laws that should have protected our children in place that they failed to follow,” said

Sen. Collins. “We need to put a spotlight and highlight the failure now and that’s why I’ve called for public hearings in conjunctions with the House and Senate because we need to expose the negligence.”

Others are moving forward with a set of legislative proposals. State Rep.David McSweeney introduced a bill this week.

“It’s a real indictment on all of us. All of us are to blame, frankly, for this, and we need to fix it,” he said.

The measure would make it a crime for school employees to have sex with a student. Under current law, sex with a student is legal if he or she is older than 17 and no force is involved.

The bill would also require the state take over responsibility for background checks on teachers.

It would amend state law to allow school districts to share internal investigative findings more easily with other school districts.

And it would allow school staff to interview a student reporting abuse only once with parental involvement.

“We’re getting a lot of input from the CPS, from the mayor’s office, others. This will be a bipartisan effort,” Rep. Sweeny said.

Collins hopes to have a hearing within the next two weeks. McSweeney is looking to pass these proposals as soon as the legislature returns in November.

Also Friday, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to examine sex abuse at CPS.