At long last, The Chicago City Council on Wednesday held a hearing on the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the public schools.
Top officials involved in the day-to-day work of cleaning up after the scandal and protecting children showed up.
But the one Chicago Public Schools official at the very top of the pyramid was a no-show: CEO Janice Jackson.
Why? Who knows. Reporters asked, but CPS did not explain.
Several aldermen at the hearing said they were deeply disappointment by Jackson’s absence.
And so are we.
As a matter of substance, Jackson probably didn’t need to be there. But as a symbol of CPS’ commitment to resolving this matter, especially in this #MeToo and #TimesUp era, Jackson should have been sitting front and center in the Council chambers.
Demonstrating leadership just by showing up is no small thing.
CPS’ problems with sexual abuse didn’t start on Jackson’s watch, as made clear in a Chicago Tribune series that documents years of unreported abuse of students.
But it is Jackson’s job to make sure that such abuses are never ignored again, that victims get the support they need, and that every perpetrator is brought to justice.
But Jackson blew off the hearing. Just as she failed to show up for a state legislative hearing on this same issue back in June.
Meanwhile, the magnitude of the problem becomes all the more irrefutable.
CPS’ new Office of Student Protections and Title IX, set up to handle complaints of sexual abuse and harassment, has received more than 600 such complaints since September. About one in five complaints involved adults, though most of those adults were not CPS employees, volunteers or vendors. The rest involved student-on-student misconduct.
CPS has work to do.
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