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EDITORIAL: City Council hearings on CPS sex abuse scandal are overdue

Sun-Times file photo

Sun-Times file photo

The horrific sex abuse scandal in the Chicago Public Schools has only two acceptable responses: Complete honesty about how it happened, and swift action to make sure such a terrible scandal never happens again. 

For honesty’s sake, aldermen shouldn’t hesitate to vote “yes” if their colleague, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) follows through on his threat to force a vote on a resolution calling for hearings on the scandal, which was documented in a powerful investigative series by the Chicago Tribune.


Would such a public airing of years of missteps and inaction embarrass CPS, not to mention City Hall? Undoubtedly, but so what? 

The real embarrassment and shame here has already been revealed: Hundreds of cases of unreported, unpunished sexual abuse of students by teachers, coaches and other school employees.

The district vowed to clean up the mess. Public hearings are a chance to tell us details on how far the cleanup has come.

CPS is quick to tout its academic strides, but such accomplishments mean nothing if parents can’t be completely confident that their children are safe from sexual predators at school.

Frankly, City Council hearings seem overdue when the feds and state lawmakers have already taken action. The Education Department last month decided to withhold $14.9 million in federal funds for magnet programs, saying the district was mishandling sex abuse complaints filed by students.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers held hearings on the scandal in June, mere weeks after the series was published. They heard testimony from two young women who had been abused by trusted teachers, and from representatives of CPS, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois State Board of Education.

Who did they not hear from? Those at the very top: CEO Janice Jackson and Board of Education President Frank Clark. Neither showed up.

Harder to avoid a City Council appearance, we hope.

“The state might’ve addressed it a little bit, but the opportunity for people to have this open hearing should be there,” Waguespack said this week.

One of the first things aldermen should ask about emerged during the state hearings: Why does CPS regularly, about 10 times a year, discipline principals for failing to promptly report sexual abuse — and then fail to alert police to such cases?

Plenty of cleanup is still needed.

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