CPS reports 29% increase in sex misconduct cases

CPS attributes jump to better training about how to report the incidents.

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Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

Sun-Times file

The head of the Chicago Public Schools department that investigates a large portion of sexual misconduct allegations said this week that a rise in cases is a sign that the district’s new training about how to report incidents is working.

Camie Pratt, CPS’ Chief Title IX Officer, said at Wednesday’s monthly school board meeting that there has been a 29% increase in reported sexual misconduct cases this year compared to last.

“This is very natural, I think, as we move on,” Pratt said. “It’s the department’s second year in existence, there’s been a lot of training, there’s been a lot of awareness campaigns, and so the reports are being appropriately reported to our office.”

Pratt detailed to the board some of that district-wide training that more than 43,000 CPS employees have gone through this school year. Every single district-run and charter school also now has a Title IX school representative who received extra training, Pratt said.

Her department, the Office of Student Protections and Title IX, has also created a new hotline — 773-535-8523 — and a new online form at cps.edu/osp for students and parents to ask for help or make a report.

As far as reported cases, Pratt said 1,211 of a total 1,598 complaints — or 78% — reported this school year involved student-on-student misconduct. Those are the incidents Pratt’s office primarily investigates, while the Office of Inspector General handles adult-on-student complaints.

Allegations against fellow students have mostly involved sexual/gender harassment, inappropriate touching and sexual electronic communications. Just more than 100 of the total 1,237 student-on-student complaints involved sexual violence, while 86 were dating violence.

Pratt said most of the cases involving adults since the start of the school year have been categorized as “grooming,” or problematic interactions between adults and students.

“We are actually glad to see this because grooming is really identifying behaviors that can lead to very much more serious sexual misconduct in the future,” Pratt said. “So we see that these are getting reported very regularly and much more than we saw last year. And so it really allows for us to intervene at an earlier level with these cases.”

Very few allegations since the start of the school year have involved sexual violence by a CPS adult against a student, though there have been dozens of complaints against adults who don’t work for the district, including guardians and other community members.

Nicholas Schuler, CPS’ inspector general, said later in the meeting that his office has opened an average of 2.7 cases of adult-on-student misconduct per school day since the start of the academic year in September.

Of 271 cases opened since July 1 of last year, 116 have been complaints against teachers, 27 have been against security guards and the rest have involved other school personnel. Out of 1,700 security guard positions in CPS, 1.5% of those employees were the subject of a complaint in that time span.

As of the start of this month, the OIG has 291 active investigations, has substantially completed 70 others and has closed 211 since the special sex investigation unit was created last year.

The cases that were closed have resulted in 76 substantiated allegations against a CPS adult involving “leering, creepy behavior or other potentially concerning behavior.”

As investigations continue, 97 adults have been pulled from schools, while 28 were fired or resigned between July 1 of last year and Jan. 31. Three CPS employees have been criminally charged with aggravated/predatory criminal sexual assault.

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