CPS principal, already under scrutiny, investigated for ‘inappropriate conduct’ with student

Franklin Fine Arts Principal Kurt Jones was accused last month of throwing a water bottle at a worker, giving her a concussion.

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Franklin Fine Arts Principal Kurt Jones

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A Chicago Public Schools principal accused of injuring a school employee by throwing a bottle at her last month is also under investigation for “inappropriate conduct” with one or more students, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The revelation of the investigation by the school district’s inspector general’s office adds to a list of troubles for Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center Principal Kurt Jones, who remains on the job this week. An online petition urging his removal has been signed by more than 650 people as of Tuesday.

The Sun-Times has previously reported that CPS’ Law Department and the Chicago Police Department are looking into a March 20 incident in which Jones allegedly hit a Franklin lunchroom worker in the face with a water bottle. Medical records show she has since developed worsening headaches and a concussion.

Jones has not been charged with a crime, nor has he been publicly identified by Chicago police as the offender in the case. CPD and CPS said their respective investigations remain ongoing one month after the incident.

And it now has been more than three months since then-Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office told Jones “we have received allegations against you involving inappropriate conduct with a student(s),” according to a letter newly obtained by the Sun-Times.

“An investigation will be conducted and we will issue our findings and recommendations in the near future. Please be advised that our findings and recommendations are sent to the Board of Education and/or the CPS Law Department, which will determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate,” reads the letter, a standard one sent to employees under investigation.

In the weeks prior, four anonymous letters were sent by mail to CPS CEO Janice Jackson’s office, all with “similar” allegations, CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton confirmed.

Those were referred to the inspector general’s office, Bolton said, which since 2018 has handled all cases that fall under the wide umbrella of alleged sexual misconduct by adults against students. That can include anything from sexual assault to texting, “grooming” for sexual relationships and “creepy” behavior by adults, according to CPS policy.

The Sun-Times interviewed two of the Franklin parents, who provided copies of separate complaints they sent to CPS. The newspaper has agreed not to identify them because the parents are worried about retaliation against their children.

One letter describes “very disturbing behavior” the parent’s child had witnessed at school, including Jones allegedly “rubbing children’s backs, cracking their necks, giving them hugs,” all actions that have made students “incredibly uncomfortable.”

“That an adult in his position, and in this day and age, would find such behavior to be acceptable is absolutely stunning and mind boggling to me,” that parent wrote in December.

“How can an adult in his right mind find such actions acceptable or even welcome? The optics alone are disturbing and shows a serious lack of judgement,” the other parent wrote in a letter sent to CPS in November.

The inspector general’s office typically reviews a set of allegations as soon as they’re received and immediately sends a recommendation to CPS whether or not to remove the employee in question. In this case, the IG’s office didn’t recommend removing Jones, Bolton said.

“The district immediately removes any employee accused of sexual abuse if there is a reasonable or credible threat to the safety and/or well-being of staff and/or students based on the information we are provided by the OIG,” Bolton said in a statement.

The nature of the complaints may have made that decision difficult. The complaints were signed anonymously, without dates of incidents and without victims’ or witnesses’ names.

Bolton said the inspector general’s office has not yet reported back any findings to CPS.

Interim Inspector General Philip Wagenknecht declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Jones did not respond to calls or messages from the Sun-Times.

The existence of these allegations was not shared by CPS when the Sun-Times asked the district about previous complaints involving Jones earlier this month. Bolton, who at the time only noted one complaint from January when Jones was issued a warning for throwing a chair from a balcony inside the school in 2018, said that was unintentional.

“Please note that the CEO’s office receives thousands of emails and letters regarding a variety of allegations, complaints and concerns. Any allegation involving potentially inappropriate contact between a student and adult is sent to the OIG’s office for them to determine the proper course of action,” Bolton said.

“In our prior response, those letters were not mentioned because the CEO’s office does not track, investigate or determine the credibility of anonymous complaints. Complaints involving allegations of student harm are immediately sent to the OIG. Complaints involving misconduct not involving students are sent to the Law Department.”

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