After scandal, CPS spent $6.7M to protect students from sexual misconduct, new report says

The district is budgeting another $7.8 million this school year on the initiatives.

SHARE After scandal, CPS spent $6.7M to protect students from sexual misconduct, new report says
Logo at Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Chicago Public Schools headquarters

Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools will spend an estimated $7.8 million this school year on initiatives to protect students from sexual misconduct, according to a report released Wednesday.

The new report showed the district had made “significant accomplishments” since a preliminary report was released last year, particularly through the creation of the Office of Student Protections and the Protecting Chicago’s Children task force, according to the report’s author, Maggie Hickey, a former assistant United States Attorney and Illinois Executive Inspector General.

The Office of Student Protections was established in September of last year following a Chicago Tribune series documenting widespread district mishandling of abuse allegations.

The report comes after federal officials hammered the district for its handling of sexual abuse complaints in its own report last month.

Hickey was paid by the Board of Education to provide an assessment of the district’s handling of more than a decade’s worth of sexual misconduct allegations involving students.

The amount budgeted for initiatives for the 2019-2020 school year is more than $1 million more than the district spent last school year, according to the report, which stated the district spent $6.7 million on initiatives.

CPS officials will need to be vigilant in tracking and monitoring their progress with the initiatives going forward, the report stated.

“CPS must ensure that it creates lasting change, not only to its policies, procedures, and organization charts but also to the culture at each of its schools. As we said in our Preliminary Report, good intentions are not good enough,” Hickey wrote.

She added, “CPS must regularly re-examine and reinforce its policies and procedures to make sure they are working. To that end, many of our follow-up recommendations involve monitoring compliance, auditing to evaluate compliance, and conducting data analysis to detect non-compliance.”

The report Wednesday also highlighted “several specific populations within CPS that pose unique concerns regarding sexual misconduct,” Hickey wrote. “Specifically, we discuss athletics, diverse learners, students with a history of sexual misconduct, and security officers.”

Hickey recommended the district train coaches and student athletes in identifying and reporting sexual misconduct, provide special education classroom assistants with pre-employment training on maintaining “appropriate boundaries” with students with disabilities and to monitor the compliance of safety plans for students with a history of sexual misconduct.

CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler told the board earlier this summer that his office had received more than 450 allegations of sexual misconduct by adults last school year. Of the cases, 45% were classified as “creepy” and concerning behavior, nearly 40 allegations included a sex act and almost 50 involved groping of some type, Schuler said.

The Office of Student Protections also reported in January that the majority of cases involved student-on-student sexual misconduct, the “bulk” of which happened off school property.

The district entered into an agreement last month with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to overhaul how the district handles sexual misconduct and harassment cases.

Federal officials were searing in their comments of “widespread and systemic” mishandling of cases going back to 2012.

The agreement includes three years of federal monitoring, under threat of the withholding of federal funding if the district doesn’t make progress.

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