Sexual misconduct investigation forces out lauded charter school leader Tim King, sources say

An attorney for King, the founder of Urban Prep Academies, denied allegations he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student.

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Tim King, founder of Urban Prep Academies, speaks during Urban Prep Academies’ College Signing Day at Daley Plaza on May 19, 2022.

Tim King, founder of Urban Prep Academies, speaks during UPA’s College Signing Day at Daley Plaza in May.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A Chicago Public Schools inspector general’s report substantiating allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student forced Tim King, the lauded head of a prominent charter school network, to resign last week, sources told WBEZ.

King, who founded Urban Prep Academies, was celebrated nationally for getting 100% of the school’s all-Black male students into college. King developed an innovative program that instilled pride in Black boys, who face some of the worst outcomes in CPS, and, among many awards, was named “Hero of the Year” by People magazine.

Sources with knowledge of the confidential report, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the Chicago Board of Education received the inspector general’s report in July.

The school district instructed the charter school Wednesday to inform parents of the investigation’s findings but said charter school officials declined. The district sent a letter instead.

“Nothing is more important to Chicago Public Schools than student safety in our schools,” reads the CPS letter to parents. “Chicago Public Schools is working with UPA [Urban Prep Academies] to ensure that all UPA students are safe and that their rights are protected.”

The letter, which does not name King, states that district investigators substantiated the claims on June 30.

“Based on interviews and documentation, the IG’s office concluded that the administrator engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old UPA student and engaged in other misconduct involving the victim.”

The letter tells parents the administrator is barred from having contact with Urban Prep students and is prohibited from entering all CPS facilities.

King had wanted to continue working to raise money for the charter schools with the Urban Prep Foundation, he told WBEZ Monday. But CPS is barring him from any connection with the charter school and placing a “do not hire” on his record.

According to sources, the inspector general’s report said King “groomed” a student, starting when he was 16. The sources said the report outlined years of alleged inappropriate sexual activity. King also provided financial support to the student after graduation, the sources said. WBEZ has not seen the report.

Through his attorney, King denied all allegations.

“It is a sad day in Chicago that a man who has done so much to help young Black men in Chicago is being targeted,” said Andy DeVooght, King’s attorney.

DeVooght called the inspector general’s report a “kangaroo” investigation and said it is full of holes. He said to the extent that King helped the young man in question, it was with private donations through an alumni program. Many former students, most of whom are low income and need support beyond high school, have been helped through the program, he said.

King’s attorney said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had previously investigated allegations of sexual abuse but did not substantiate them. King does not face criminal charges.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez pledged last year, during a scandal at Marine Leadership Academy, to take swift action and be transparent in cases of sexual misconduct.

Charter schools are part of Chicago Public Schools. Last year, the school district distributed about $8.6 million to Urban Prep to provide education to students who attended two of its three schools. The third campus is funded by the state.

King served as both the chief executive officer and president of the charter school network, a setup that school district officials previously criticized for creating a conflict of interest.

“We intend to clear his name,” DeVooght said. The attorney added there have been no other allegations in King’s 30-year career.

In the letter to parents, CPS officials said they told Urban Prep to dismiss King after the substantiated findings by the inspector general. However, he appealed the inspector general’s findings to the CPS’ Title IX coordinator, who rejected King’s appeal, according to CPS. After that, King resigned.

King is exiting Urban Prep at a critical time. Urban Prep has spent years in financial turmoil and has had to get cash advances and take out high-interest loans to make payroll, according to a memo obtained by WBEZ. It also has seen its student enrollment dwindle as Black families have left the city, taking students with them.

The two campuses that are authorized by CPS are up for renewal next year.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ.

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