Chicago Public Schools announced the creation of a new office within the district on Wednesday, aimed at better protecting students in the wake of a bombshell report alleging that hundreds of children were sexually abused by district employees over the past decade.
The Office of Student Protections and Title IX will be formed this summer and report to CPS CEO Janice Jackson, the district said in a statement. It will coordinate the district's response to allegations of abuse and refer those allegations to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation, as well as oversee investigations and provide students with resources - including an advocate - for support, CPS said.
The creation of the new office comes weeks after the Chicago Tribune released an investigation that found a systemic failure to protect students on multiple levels, resulting in hundreds of allegations of abuse.
The Tribune analyzed 523 Chicago police reports from 2008 through 2017 of children being sexually assaulted or abused inside public schools across the city, and reviewed several other elements, including criminal charges and prosecutions, lawsuits filed by victims, CPS investigative reports and more.
Tribune reporters also spoke to several current and former students who reported abuse at the hands of school employees.
In all, the publication found 72 school employees alleged to have violated students, including teachers, counselors, coaches, security guards and more.
The assaults and abuse took place at schools across the entire city, the Tribune reports, with a searchable database to find incidents reported at specific schools.
The Tribune alleged that “ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions” and that teachers and principals routinely failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state-mandated reporter law.
However, state law also failed to protect students, according to the Tribune, with weaknesses in Illinois law helping to protect predators while the State Board of Education took years in some cases to discipline perpetrators.
Within the district, the Tribune alleged that officials kept results of internal investigations under wraps and even sought to discredit at least one victim who came forward with her experience when she filed a civil lawsuit.
CPS hired ex-US Attorney and former Illinois Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the district's policies, a review that the district says resulted in the creation of the new office and its multi-pronged mission.
Focus areas include investigation allegations, providing student advocate services, complying with Title IX, train CPS community members, put reporting policies into place and ensure appropriate notifications are made in all cases.
“Chicago’s students deserve a school district that will fully protect them and advocate for their best interest at all times, which is why we are creating a robust new team to support students that is more comprehensive than anything else in the country,” Jackson said in a statement.
“By doing everything from guaranteeing student-on-student abuse allegations are handled properly to ensuring every member of the CPS community understands their role in recognizing, preventing, and responding to abuse, the Office of Student Protections will help ensure all students can safely access the high quality education they deserve," she added.