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Chicago district fails to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, investigation alleges

Chicago Tribune reports numerous instances of juvenile sexual assault and abuse in Chicago Public Schools

Many students have been raped or sexually abused during the last decade by trusted adults working in the Chicago Public Schools, an investigation by The Chicago Tribune asserts.

The newspaper reports that over a decade, police have investigated more than 520 cases of juvenile sexual assault and abuse in Chicago’s public schools. But the district failed to protect students from sexual abuse and assault, leaving lasting damage.

The investigation drew on police data, public and confidential records, and interviews with teens and young adults who spoke out.

Among the findings:

•When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law.

•Even in cases where school employees acted expeditiously, they subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, which inflicted more psychological pain and defied basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation.

•Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And Chicago school officials failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or “creepy” groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years. The exact number of cases in which school workers sexually assaulted students remains elusive, in part because the school system does so little to understand and tackle the problem. Administrators acknowledge that it does not track child abuse by its employees in a consistent or formal manner.

After the Tribune threatened to file a lawsuit to force public disclosure of basic documents and data related to sexual misconduct, the district acknowledged that its law department had investigated 430 reports that school employees had sexually abused, assaulted or harassed students since 2011.

In 230 of these cases, or more than half, investigators found credible evidence of misconduct, the district said.

Reporters obtained and analyzed Chicago police data on such crimes from 2008 through 2017. Police investigated 523 reports that children were sexually assaulted or abused inside city public schools during those 10 years—an average of one report each week, the data show.

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