The Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for a “thorough investigation” of Chicago Public Schools basketball teams a day after learning of what he called “widespread incompetence” by CPS officials.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that CPS officials can’t say for sure that basketball players at every school — including the top teams — were eligible to play.
The school district is missing most of the paperwork required to show team and player eligibility, according to documents.
But earlier this year, Curie High School, the Sun-Times’ No. 1-ranked team, was stripped of its city title and 24 victories for the season after a CPS investigation revealed that seven Curie basketball players had been ineligible for the entire season because the correct paperwork hadn’t been filed. The investigation into Curie was spurred by an anonymous tip.
Jackson, who has been a champion of the Curie players since the debacle began earlier this year, said Tuesday he had tried reaching CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, though he had not spoken to them Tuesday afternoon.
“This was the burden on them to protect these children,” Jackson said speaking about the Curie players. “They’ve been stigmatized. The coach has been stigmatized. The school has been stigmatized.”
Jackson said he wants Curie’s championship to be restored.
“I want to appeal them to do a through investigation to see if undue harm was done to these kids,” he said.
A CPS spokesman declined to comment on Jackson’s request and pointed to a statement issued earlier.
A spokesman earlier told the Sun-Times that the district has not opened a new investigation to determine whether all schools and their basketball players were eligible.
But CPS has reformed its eligibility accounting system, district officials said in the statement. From now on, athletic directors will be required to update eligibility forms on a weekly basis and provide referees in all sports with updated eligibility sheets before each game. Also, regional athletic directors and CPS sports administration officials will conduct random check-ins to ensure that eligibility forms have been submitted, that only eligible students are participating and that students with special academic needs are receiving the necessary support.
Curie’s coach, Mike Oliver, said Tuesday,“I’ve had a lot of response from teachers [at Curie] that were surprised it was so widespread. They thought we got what we deserved. Now they know there was a problem with everybody. I’m just amazed they can’t find no paperwork from everyone. Technically the whole season is a wash, and the only team penalized is Curie.”
Also Tuesday, Illinois High School Association Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a statement, “While some schools may have failed to adhere to certain CPS policies and procedures, the information we received did not indicate that Curie High School, or any other CPS schools, were in violation of any IHSA by-laws as a result.”