FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, August 28, 2017
For more information, contact:
CPS Office of Communications
***Links to the curriculum can be found below***
CHICAGO – After working for months with African-American community leaders, civil rights advocates, law enforcement, academic researchers and the Chicago Teachers Union, today Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department unveiled a curriculum to teach all 8th and 10th graders about Jon Burge, former Chicago police commander who, along with officers working under his command, has been accused by more than 100 African-Americans of torturing and physically abusing them while they were in police custody in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Burge was later convicted of lying under oath about his role in the torture and abuse.
“Only by facing history directly and honestly can we heighten understanding of this dark chapter and increase our ability to confront its challenges,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This curriculum was created thoughtfully and collaboratively, and I am confident it will be a meaningful, impactful and educational experience for students across Chicago Public Schools.”
“Confronting the sins of the past is critical to building a better future together. It’s vital for students to closely examine past wrongs so that as future leaders they can make their community better,” said CEO Forrest Claypool.
For years, torture survivors, the African-American community and other advocates pushed for reparations for the torture. In response, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council passed a measure that provides $5.5 million in reparations, as well as establishes a curriculum in Chicago Public Schools to examine the Burge case and its legacy t0 help prevent such abuses from ever happening again.
CPS social science specialists worked for months with community leaders, civil rights advocates, law enforcement, academic researchers and the Chicago Teachers Union to create a curriculum that teaches students about the past and empowers them to be agents for hope in our own time.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson provided a video message
for students that can be played when educators begin the curriculum.
Addressing students in the video directly, Superintendent Johnson says: “What happened was wrong. As your police superintendent, I condemn it. My promise to you all is that any and all torture is in our past; it will not be our future. I also want you to know that there are countless moments of police courage and professionalism, and they are far more frequent than the moments of excessive force. But those moments are wrong, and no matter how isolated they are, they undermine our entire department and our relationship with our residents, our communities – with you. As your police superintendent, I want you to listen carefully during these lessons, ask hard questions, reflect on what you’re learning, and most importantly to think about what you can do to make Chicago a better place for everyone.”
Six CPS schools piloted the curriculum last year to ensure it would be both engaging and appropriate for students. As part of the pilot, torture survivors visited several classrooms to tell their stories and hear students’ questions.
At the end of the unit, 10th grade students will be asked to create a memorial to educate the public about this time in our history and 8th grade students will be asked to write an opinion piece to express their views on how to improve police-community relationships.
“Our classrooms will be safe and respectful places for students to learn about this painful period in Chicago’s past with honest inquiry, as well as provide avenues for students’ thoughtful and productive responses,” said Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson. “We encourage families to continue these conversations at home, especially as our country is wrenched by the ugliness in Charlottesville. We all need to help children understand the past, the present and how they can shape the future in line with our values of tolerance, diversity and respect for each other.”
Additionally, many educators are preparing to talk with their students about race, hate and intolerance because of the recent violence in Charlottesville and national conversation that has emerged. To help educators with these conversations, last week, CPS provided schools with
Chicago Public Schools serves 381,000 students in 652 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.