Chicago district says 266 employees won't return after background checks raised issues

Sept. 4, 2018
School system began conducting new background checks on more than 43,000 employees after newspaper probe.

The Chicago school system has announced that 266 employees will not be returning for the 2018-19 school year because of potential problems flagged in a new round of background checks.

The Chicago Tribune reports that nearly 60 of the employees barred from returning to class were teachers.

An additional 245 of the district's 43,332 employees were banned because they chose not to submit fingerprints for the checks, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said.

The 2018-19 school year began today in Chicago. 

Of the 266 employees, Jackson said the district "will be conducting thorough investigations in all of these instances to better understand the circumstances of each unique case. Employees were only removed based on the results of their background checks if arrests were identified that suggest a potential history of violence, sexual misconduct, or dangerous criminal activity.”

District officials began a massive effort in June to redo background checks for school employees following a Tribune investigation that found some employees who abused students had criminal backgrounds.

Jackson cautioned that some may be allowed to return to work if an inquiry concludes they do not pose a risk to a safe school environment.

The employees who opted not to submit fingerprints risk losing their positions permanently. Employees who do not participate in the checks will be disqualified from future employment, Jackson said.

The review also included vendors who interact with students, such as custodians, engineers and school bus drivers. Last week, officials were still working to collect fingerprints from school volunteers.

“There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of adults serving in our schools are fully committed to keeping children safe, and the small minority of employees whose records require deeper inquiry will receive the thorough review they deserve,” Jackson said.

As part of the process, the district budgeted more than $3 million to collect school-based workers’ fingerprints, review their potential criminal histories and clear them to enter campuses this fall.

The district ran the employee fingerprints through state and federal databases and reviewed the nature of the results to determine whether the employees would remain in their positions.

MORE: Jackson's message to parents.

Dear CPS Parents and Families,

We are looking forward to welcoming students back on Tuesday and I can’t wait to kick off another great school year with you and your children. As we get closer to the opening of schools, I wanted to provide another update on our work this summer to ensure student safety.

We made an unprecedented effort this summer to ensure that all adults serving in schools have cleared a comprehensive background re-check. To date, we have completed these checks on a total of 43,332 employees, and I am pleased to let you know that 97.9% of them have been cleared to work in our schools.

While there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of adults serving in our schools are fully committed to keeping children safe, the small minority of employees whose records are either still being processed or require deeper inquiry will receive the thorough review they deserve.

Adults who have not yet cleared our background check WILL NOT be permitted in CPS facilities until their background checks are complete. The safety of your children remains our highest priority and we will take every measure to ensure their wellbeing.

In addition to re-checking backgrounds on tens of thousands of adults, we’ve also taken these additional steps based on the recommendations of former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Executive Illinois Inspector General Maggie Hickey. Ms. Hickey released her preliminary report earlier this summer, and we have taken significant steps to act on her recommendations.

•We created the district’s first Office of Student Protections and Title IX, which will be tasked to advocate for students, provide supports for survivors of abuse, and coordinate the district’s response to any allegations of abuse in our schools.
•We formed a new partnership with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC) to train all employees on identifying and reporting abuse, and provide survivors with the supports they need. Parents and community members can access these same trainings later this year at our 13 Parent University sites.
•We have strengthened our Volunteer Policy to ensure principals have the authority they need to investigate and supervise the adults who volunteer inside their buildings. All volunteers who have regular contact with students must now register with the district annually, and have their backgrounds checked against sex offender registries and records maintained by the Department of Children and Families.
•Finally, CPS has launched a district-wide education and awareness campaign to help students, staff, and community members better understand how to identify and report abuse. This includes updating our sexual education curriculum to make sure children have the tools to recognize inappropriate relationships and sexual abuse.

As CEO, I am committed to ensuring that CPS is free of sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence and we have left no stone unturned in our effort to ensure all adults who support our students are capable of fostering safe learning environments. I would like to thank everyone who has recognized the importance of this initiative to safeguard our students including LSC members, teachers, and principals who took time this summer to have their backgrounds re-checked.

I will continue providing updates as we work to strengthen student protections. I look forward to welcoming your children back for what I know will be a positive and productive school year and I thank you for your continued support of Chicago Public Schools.

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