Chicago Public Schools
stephanie jones

Special education chief in Chicago district resigns amid calls for ouster

June 12, 2023
Stephanie Jones has left her job as chief of the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services after the teachers union said she had failed to "protect the district’s most vulnerable students."

The head of special education at Chicago Public Schools has stepped down following pressure for her ouster over the use of physical restraint in schools and other criticism of how the district has treated students with disabilities.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Stephanie Jones, chief of the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services, left her role last week, according to a district spokesperson. 

Last week, the Chicago Teachers Union demanded Jones resign for “dismal failures to protect the district’s most vulnerable students,” alleging violation of special education laws, a “toxic workplace that has left the department in shambles” and failure to fulfill the legal requirements on supporting students with disabilities.

Special education advocates and the teachers union have criticized Jones for several years, including over the ongoing state oversight after the district was found to have denied services to students with disabilities, and over recent disclosure that the district violated state laws on the use of physical restraint and isolation of students.

The Illinois State Board of Education has warned the district four times to comply with state law on physical restraint, most recently in April.

Violations alleged by the state agency range from allowing untrained staff members to restrain students unnecessarily — sometimes for more than an hour or through the use of prohibited methods — to the district’s failure to notify parents and review and report all incidents to the state.

The district's use of restraint, isolation and timeout procedures is not limited to special education students, but Jones was the designated official responsible for being notified of, reviewing and maintaining records of every such incident.

Jones was appointed head of special education in 2019 by former CPS CEO Janice Jackson.

The start of the state board's formal monitoring of Chicago’s special education services predated Jones’ appointment. That began in 2018, two years after officials concluded the district’s revamp of special education services had violated federal law and regulations.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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