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Independent inspector general will take over probes of sexual abuse in Chicago district

Policy change comes after newspaper investigation that found shortcomings in the school system's response to sexual abuse allegations.

Investigations into allegations that Chicago school employees sexually abused students should be conducted by the district’s independent watchdog, the school board president says.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the school system will end the practice of having its own law department oversee probes of alleged sexual abuse. Clark's announcement comes after the Tribune published an investigation that found significant shortcomings in the district’s response to sexual abuse allegations. 

School Board President Frank Clark says he will propose that district Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office take over responsibility for sexual abuse investigations. The change would require a board vote that is scheduled to occur later this month.

Such investigations have been managed within the district’s Law Department, which also defends the school system if abused students file lawsuits. Child welfare experts say it creates a conflict of interest for the department to both question students and later represent the district’s interests in court.s. 

“I, like most of you, have been disappointed and outraged,” Clark says. “Schools must be a sanctuary for students. But as we know now, this was not the case for some."

In a letter to Schuler, Clark said Inspector General's office has been directed to review older sexual abuse investigations conducted by the Law Department dating “back to at least 2000, and further as warranted by your office, to determine if additional actions are required and appropriate corrective action was taken.”

Schuler wrote to school officials last week that his office should be responsible for sexual abuse investigations.

In New York City schools, wrongdoing by school employees is investigated by a city inspector general squad that operates independently of the school district.

 

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