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Chicago teachers can take lead in ending sexual abuse

Sun-Times file photo

First of all, thank you, Sun-Times, for the excellent coverage of the Chicago Public Schools’ sexual misconduct issues. It’s a great example of why we as a nation need investigative reporting — to keep our democracy thriving. No fake news here.

Buried in the story in Saturday’s paper were two important items. The first was that Maggie Hickey, the outside investigator, said she asked the acting Chicago Teachers Union boss, Jesse Sharkey to participate in her investigation, but “Sharkey didn’t respond to multiple requests for an interview.”

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Then Sharkey put the blame for the CPS sex abuse problem on Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He said that “Emanuel and his hand-picked school bosses have failed repeatedly to protect school children from harm.”

But who is in the classroom where the abuse is occurring? Who has the ability and the duty to report such abuse? Who could organize teachers into a force within CPS to report, cause prosecution and mitigate damage from sexual abuse? Who is totally protected under the whistle-blowers rules from retaliation if they report abuse?

The answer: Members of Sharkey’s union, the teachers.

Let’s face it. The problem of abuse has been known to teachers and administrators alike for years. They have kept it secret out of self-interest. There is plenty of blame to go around. Just for once it would be nice to see the leadership of CPS and CTU shake hands and jointly go after a problem of this nature and depth, instead of pointing fingers at each other.

Emanuel has been trying hard, more so than any other political leader in Illinois, to keep the public union pension systems afloat — at greater political risk to him. Yet now he is “to blame” for the sexual abuse in the public schools?

Ed Bryant, Evanston

Not a church problem alone

Michael Sneed reports that Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke thinks “every state should convene a grand jury” to look at sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Why is there never a call for such investigations about sexual abuse in the public schools and other private and public institutions?

Mario Caruso, North Center

Chasing the wrong criminals

Five years ago, 2,220,300 adults were incarcerated in state and federal prisons and county jails, far surpassing the numbers in all other countries. You would think, then, we might have a well-functioning criminal justice system. But you would be wrong. The vast majority of the people incarcerated are being held for very minor crimes, such as drug possession. When it comes to minor crimes, we jail strenuously. But when it comes to the big crimes perpetrated by the rich, we fail miserably. It is time we pivot our focus away from petty crimes and to far more harmful white-collar crimes.

Lee Knohl, Evanston