Today in Chicago, a joint committee of the House and Senate K-12 Education Committees began gathering information and testimony about ongoing instances of sexual abuse against students who attend Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The subject matter hearing was prompted by a recent Chicago Tribune investigative report that unveiled 523 instances of sexual abuse against CPS students over the last ten years.
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock), who sits on the House K-12 Education- Curriculum and Policies Committee, grilled representatives from CPS about ongoing abuse that has been highlighted in newspaper articles that span more than 30 years, and the lack of corrective measures that have been implemented. “I am outraged,” said Reick. “Not by the fact that we don’t have the policies and procedures in place, but by the fact that your people, and people going back 32 years, did nothing. You shoved it under the rug. You took those young ladies and told them that ‘it’s your fault.’ You let those teachers resign instead of holding them accountable and taking away their pensions.”
Reick went on to say, “I want to see in any piece of legislation that comes out of this that anybody who is accused of doing this and there’s any reason to suspect that they actually did it, those people are going to lose their pensions if I have anything to say about it.”
Committee members heard from several panels during the 6 1/2-hour hearing. The first to testify was a panel of two victims of sexual abuse from CPS teachers. Lawmakers also heard testimony from CPS, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS), the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).
In questioning an attorney for CPS, Reick said, “I cannot believe that (CPS schools CEO) Janice Jackson is not sitting there right here, right now taking responsibility for her part in this because she’s been in CPS for a long time,” Reick said. “I cannot believe that the people who have been in CPS all these years haven’t known what’s going on.”
The joint committee chairs said their goal is to use the testimony to help craft new public policy to improve protections for students, and strengthen accountability measures within school districts where sexual abuse charges are brought forward by students or families. Click here to watch a segment of Reick’s questioning of CPS representatives.