Chicago Public Schools leaders on Wednesday named their first permanent Title IX officer to head the Office of Student Protections, the latest reform measure for a district still reeling from a citywide sex abuse crisis revealed last year.
Attorney and mediator Camie Pratt comes to CPS from the University of Phoenix, where she served for the last 10 years as that school’s Title IX coordinator, “working to eliminate gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence from all programs and activities,” according to CPS CEO Janice Jackson.
“We have total confidence that she will bring the same level of commitment to CPS that she has in her past experiences,” Jackson said in announcing Pratt’s hire at a Wednesday Board of Education meeting. ”
Doug Henning, one of the district’s top lawyers, had held the post on an interim basis since the $3 million, 16-person Office of Student Protections was formed last summer, following a series of Chicago Tribune reports that outlined decades of sexual abuse allegations mishandled by school leaders and administrators across CPS.
The scandal prompted the district to order repeat background checks on its tens of thousands of employees and vendors inside city schools. More than 120 workers were dismissed in the first few months of re-checks. By the end of last year, nearly 1,000 misconduct complaints had been filed with the nascent office, leading to six more firings and dozens of employees removed pending investigations.
Complaints ranged from alleged sexual assault to inappropriate texting and “generally creepy or concerning behavior,” according to CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler. The removed employees included teachers, security guards, bus drivers and classroom aides, among others.
Presenting a five-year strategic plan for CPS on Tuesday, Jackson highlighted student safety as “the core component of every single thing we do.”
Among other sweeping changes implemented since the abuse crisis broke, CPS says it has partnered with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to provide therapy and training, beefed up its background check procedure and improved employee training.
According to a CPS bio, Pratt built “a successful Title IX organization held in high regard both internally and externally” as the first such coordinator for the University of Phoenix.
She also was the vice president of the school’s Office of Dispute Management, which focused on student and faculty grievances, “risk mitigation and threat assessment.”
CPS is aiming to have all its schools receive “Safe School Certification” by this fall.