CHICAGO — During a long-awaited City Council hearing on sex abuse at Chicago Public Schools Wednesday, aldermen questioned top officials from CPS — except CEO Janice Jackson.
"I’m somewhat disappointed because I have trust in her," said Ald. David Moore (17th Ward).
The Chicago Tribune shined a spotlight on CPS abuse this summer with a series of stories showing police investigated 523 reports of rape or sexual abuse over a 10-year period.
"It’s shocking to all of us that these kinds of things are going on in our schools," said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward).
These revelations prompted a huge response from the district. CPS has opened a new Office of Student Protection, which has handled hundreds of cases so far this school year.
"This is a first of its kind in any K-12 space in the United States," First Deputy General Counsel Douglas Henning said.
While the district checked and rechecked the backgrounds of 68,000 employees, staff and others connected to the schools, some aldermen are suspicious. Ald. Milly Santiago (31st Ward) said she didn't believe their numbers at all.
"An Office of Student Protections? Their schools should be the office of student protection. Your school should protect you when you walk in that building, your school should protect you," Ald. Susan Sadowski Garza (10th Ward) said.
The district says its new protocols are working because victims are coming forward, and of 624 misconduct reports made since September 4, 133 of those allegations involve adult misconduct and 491 cases involve only students. But aldermen are demanding accountability for past mistakes.
Citing the district’s failure to protect students, Federal officials are also withholding millions in grant money, raising the stakes for CPS even further.