New leader at Lincoln Park H.S. out after video allegedly shows her grabbing student’s face

Days after she came in after the top two administrators were ousted, Judith Gibbs has left after an allegation she had “improper contact” with a student.

SHARE New leader at Lincoln Park H.S. out after video allegedly shows her grabbing student’s face

Just days after she replaced a fired principal and assistant principal, a new interim administrator at Lincoln Park High School abruptly left after an allegation she had “improper contact” with a student when she grabbed his face in a school hallway — which was caught on video.

Judith Gibbs, a retired CPS principal who was tapped to fill in after the ouster of interim principal John Thuet and assistant principal Michelle Brumfield late last week, chose to step down because she determined “she was not a good fit” for the school, according to a letter sent to parents Wednesday from Laura LeMone, a CPS official in charge of the school network that includes Lincoln Park.

Gibbshad retired in August 2014 from Avalon Park Elementary School after 32 years in the district, and became eligible for a $96,000 pension. She later was hired as a principal/administrator in charge, a job CPS frequently taps retirees for when a school suddenly needs a new leader.

She was brought in, along with another interim administrator, after a scandal arose at Lincoln Park around an alleged incident on a boys basketball team trip to Detroit and subsequent allegations of misconduct by both adults and students at the school. CPS said it is investigating alleged retaliation against witnesses, lying to families and financial mismanagement of the athletics program, as well as an allegation of sex assault not connected to the basketball team, which saw its season suspended.

However, Gibbs’ departure comes after a video, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, appears to show her in a hallway at Lincoln Park with another adult and a student. When the student takes out his ID card and then abruptly pulls it away, she appears to reach out and grab his face. He leans his head back.

The video, a CPS source said, was taken Tuesday and air-dropped to the cellphones of members of the school community.

Gibbs couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement, Michael Passman, a spokesman for CPS, did not address the video but said the district had opened a probe into her conduct.

“Ms. Gibbs decided to leave Lincoln Park High School,” he said. “We recently learned of an allegation involving improper contact with a student and have initiated an investigation.”

Officials said Gibbs’ replacement, Calvin Davis, will serve as the “Administrator-in-Charge” at Lincoln Park, alongside Jerryelyn Jones, who came in this week with Gibbs.

“As part of our commitment to transparency, we will continue to provide regular updates,” LeMone’s letter says. “I know this past week has been challenging, and I am confident that when this is over, the LPHS community will be safer and stronger than ever.”

LSC demands reinstatement of previous leaders

However, members of the local school council say the district has been anything but transparent. In an open letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson, also sent on Wednesday, the members blasted the district for not providing more information and saying that “a huge injustice has been done” with the firing of Thuet and Brumfield and the suspension of the basketball season.

But the lack of details disclosed, including at a meeting attended by hundreds of parents and students Monday night, has caused families to clamor for answers.

“This is all not to say that several of CPS’s allegations are not serious. They are,” the LSC letter says. “It is awful to think of any student suffering. However, the way in which CPS has engaged in its investigation has been like a bomb, destroying indiscriminately. CPS has either wildly overreacted or — if not — then it has miserably failed to explain its actions.”

The letter continues: “No explanation was given as to what allegations had been ascribed to whom. ... In what world do we live where people are fired without notice or explanation, their careers destroyed, all based on allegations, yet to be proven? CPS did not even provide Thuet and Brumfield the information it shared at the community meeting. CPS told us — the LSC — nothing.”

As to the team, “if individual players are accused of wrongdoing or being investigated, suspending players may be warranted, but no players have been arrested or suspended from school, and nothing has been specifically indicated to staff or students in terms of safety. If there are concerns about safety, why isn’t more information being shared?”

The LSC demanded CPS let the boys basketball team resume its season and reinstate Thuet, Brumfield and Dean John Johnson. The team forfeited a Public League playoff game Tuesday night.

CPS officials have said they can’t provide more details for privacy reasons and out of fear their disclosure could subject any involved students to further trauma, a source said.

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