Chicago Public Schools

Background Checks on Thousands of CPS Employees Incomplete a Week From First Day of School

CPS says it has already begun to implement policy changes in the wake of the report

Chicago Public Schools students go back to class next week--but the district still hasn’t completed background checks for thousands of its employees.

As part of those background checks, teachers were notified in July that they would need to re-submit fingerprints by Aug. 3. Some teachers who had completed the process say they still weren’t cleared until this week. Others are now facing disciplinary hearings.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Wednesday morning that the background checks process had not yet been completed but was moving quickly.

“This process is moving at a fast pace," she said. "I’m amazed at how many people we’ve been able to check in such a short period of time."

Following a Chicago Tribune investigation that uncovered district employees with criminal histories had abused students and a scathing report released this month critical of how sexual misconduct allegations were handled--CPS announced plans to re-do background checks for all its employees.

“The bed they made is that they said they were going to do this huge number of checks and it’s a hot buttery mess," said Jesse Sharkey, the Chicago Teachers Union acting president.

As of Wednesday, finger printing has been completed for 44,054 employees, 2,000 are still in process and another 220 still need to be fingerprinted this week, during disciplinary hearings.

But even after completing their background checks, some teachers received emails this week informing them: “the results of your background check are still pending, and we will follow up with you as soon as possible once we receive them. Please be aware that you cannot participate in student programming until you are cleared."

“What we committed to is that no individual that has not undergone this check will be allowed to work back in our schools," Jackson said.

Still, the Chicago Teachers Union says the checks alone fail to address the underlying faults in identifying and preventing abuse.

“Instead of doing press releases, fingerprinting, background checks, they should actually be doing training, sitting down and working with people who are on the front lines of the schools to make processes to make sure that no students ever get hurt again," Sharkey said.

CPS said Wednesday they will provide a final overview of the results once they are done. They also said that with 99 percent of the checks complete they believe they will finish before the school year starts next week.

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