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Parents deserve the full story about sex abuse allegations at Marine Leadership Academy

When it comes to protecting children from abuse, there is no room for anything but complete transparency that holds adults fully accountable.

The Marine Leadership Academy is at 1920 N Hamlin Ave.
The Marine Leadership Academy is at 1920 N Hamlin Ave.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

It didn’t take long to find out that Chicago Public Schools officials apparently knew far more than the public initially was told about the sexual abuse scandal at a Northwest Side high school.

Last Friday, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez announced that the district’s inspector general had substantiated sexual misconduct and cover-up allegations against 13 adults at Marine Leadership Academy. Ten of the 13 have been fired.

We can’t say this any better than Martinez: “The behavior uncovered by this investigation represents a stunning betrayal of trust and colossal failure of judgment and character on the part of far too many individuals.”

But after the latest reporting by WBEZ Chicago’s Sarah Karp and the Sun-Times’ Nader Issa, we have more questions: Who, at the top levels of CPS, knew details about the allegations soon after they first surfaced in 2019? And most importantly, what did they do about it in the following two years?

It should go without saying that parents, and the public, deserve the full story about allegations of sexual abuse of students.

Yet CPS attorneys and leaders long had knowledge of an investigation into sexual misconduct and failure to report it, despite claiming otherwise, as Karp and Issa reported.

Marine Leadership’s principal since 2015, Erin Galfer, was even promoted just months before she was among those fired for allegedly failing to report misconduct. Galfer is now fighting her firing and says it was CPS leadership, not her, who ignored abuse reports.

Meanwhile, Inspector General Will Fletcher said his office alerted CPS in April of 2019 about three allegations and listed the principal as one of those being accused of failing to report some of the situations. The IG said it consistently updated CPS about the investigation as it unfolded.

So exactly what happened between April 2019 and now?

Finding out is just the first step, followed by tougher reforms, if needed, beyond those CPS instituted in 2019 after a Chicago Tribune investigation uncovered widespread mishandling of sexual abuse cases.

Martinez, who is new to CPS and could not have known the details before being briefed in late October, has already taken aggressive steps. Staff who fail to report abuse — not just those who are perpetrators — will be removed from their jobs. He also plans to lobby Illinois lawmakers to make it illegal for school employees to have sex with students, no matter their age.

The district has added more staff to the IG’s office, and that should help speed up the pace of investigations.

When it comes to protecting children from predators, there is no room for anything but complete transparency that holds adults fully accountable.

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