CPS failed to recognize district-wide sexual abuse, report says

CHICAGO — An independent review of how Chicago Public Schools handled sexual misconduct is out, and the preliminary findings are damning.

Failures at all levels kept CPS from recognizing and responding to a district-wide sexual abuse problem, the report said.

The Chicago Tribune first shined a spotlight on the issue in a series of reports published earlier this summer.

"What happened when the Tribune report came out," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said, "is they were able to connect the dots ... and help us connect systemic issues. When you look at the data in almost every case, bad actors are caught. But it’s not just about catching bad actors. We have to change the culture."

Jackson said the district has moved swiftly to change policy. It’s using posters to educate students about abuse; personnel is being retrained.

"The way that that will work," Jackson said, "is that our principals have undergone several hours of training this summer, and they’re going to be responsible for training the adults, the teachers, the support staff, volunteers, etc."

CPS said it has reorganized to increase the number of investigators who look into abuse cases involving adults and students. In another change, a central office will respond to student-on-student harassment.

After abuse stories came out, state lawmakers got involved. State Sen. Dale Righter said the district has not been forthcoming. Despite a public hearing, Righter sent CPS a letter demanding it answer more questions, such as how sex offenders were disciplined and who made the call not to immediately report allegations of abuse to the proper authorities.

"We’ve answered every single question that we have been given regarding that," Jackson said. "We acknowledged that our reporting system needed to be strengthened in the district. So one of things that we’ve committed to is doing a backlog of every case."