Protecting Chicago's Children

Protecting Chicago’s Students

CPS Plan of Action

Nothing is more important to Chicago Public Schools than the safety and wellbeing of our students. Parents and families entrust us to educate and safeguard their children, and that trust is sacred. Over the years, CPS has continuously improved efforts protect students, but we must be vigilant and address any issues that could endanger children.

To ensure that CPS is doing everything possible to prevent abuse, the Board of Education asked independent, outside expert to review all practices, policies, and procedures for addressing instances of alleged sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse. Maggie Hickey, former Assistant United States Attorney and Illinois Executive Inspector General, performed a top-to-bottom review and provided a preliminary report on August 17, 2018.

CPS has also removed all employees who are accused of sexual abuse from schools pending the outcome of an investigation.

In addition, CPS is taking several immediate steps, particularly concerning background checks, support for students, investigations into employee misconduct, and training and guidance. CPS is also working with partners in Springfield to address changes in state law to better protect students.

If you suspect abuse, please report it immediately to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The 24-hour hotline is: 800-25-ABUSE, or 800-252-2873. All CPS staff are mandatory reporters of any physical or sexual abuse of children, and all employees attest to understanding this responsibility as a condition of their employment.

 

Immediate Improvements

Office of Student Protections and Title IX

CPS has formed the district’s first Office of Student Protections and Title IX (OSP) to ensure the school district is free from sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

OSP is responsible for referring allegations of adult-on-student abuse to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation, overseeing investigations into allegations of student-on-student abuse, ensuring students are paired with an advocate immediately following an allegation, and providing students with resources for receiving long-term support.

Along with former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Illinois Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey, CPS has identified several key priorities that the new Office of Student Protections and Title IX will focus on to better support Chicago’s students. At the start of the upcoming 2018-19 school year, the new office’s efforts will focus on the following areas:

Investigations: In coordination with principals and law enforcement agencies, OSP will oversee the investigation of allegations of student-on-student sexual harassment, bullying, or abuse. Trained investigators, who prioritize supporting the best interests of students to avoid retraumatization or harm, will oversee investigations.

Advocacy: The office will coordinate with internal and external partners to ensure student advocate services, counseling, and other supports are provided to students involved in sexual harassment, bullying, or abuse.

Compliance: The office will ensure the district is in compliance with Title IX, which protects students from discrimination related to any educational program on the basis of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

Training and Awareness: The office will ensure every member of the CPS community understands their role in recognizing, preventing, reporting and responding to sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse.

Policy and Prevention: The office will ensure that district policies and practices provide clear steps that employees must take in order to protect victims of abuse and ensure incidents are reported to all necessary parties.

Data and Reporting: The office will collect and share information with the public and ensure appropriate notifications are made in all cases.

 

Hickey Report Recommendations

In August of 2018, Ms. Hickey released a set of recommendations that help CPS build upon the significant steps already taken over the summer of 2018 to strengthen safeguards for students. CPS’ Plan of Action aligns to Ms. Hickey’s comprehensive roadmap for a safer and stronger school district, and the district has implemented many of the recommendations that Ms. Hickey outlined in her report.

CPS took several major steps to act on Ms. Hickey’s earliest recommendations, including creating the district’s first Office of Student Protections and Title IX (OSP). This 20-member team has a clear mandate to advocate for students, provide supports for survivors, and coordinate the district’s response to any allegation of abuse, which includes referring allegations of adult-on-student abuse to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

In addition to the creation of OSP, the district re-checked the backgrounds of tens of thousands of adults who work and regularly volunteer in our schools.

The district formed a new partnership with the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center to re-train all employees and ensure student victims receive the supports they need and deserve. Parents and community members will also be able to access trainings at our 13 Parent University sites later this year.

CPS is also updating its sexual education curriculum and educational materials to better educate students on identifying inappropriate relationships and sexual abuse as part of the district-wide education and awareness campaign to help students, staff, and community members identify and report abuse.

 

Partnering with Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center

The district has partnered with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to support students and help prevent sexual abuse. Our new partnership will help create safer and more responsive school environments by training Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees on signs of abuse, connecting students with therapeutic resources, and leveraging additional partnerships to help protect Chicago’s students.

The district’s new partnership with ChicagoCAC will supplement district operations in several areas, all with the goal of creating safer schools and protecting students. Resources that will be provided to CPS include:

Therapy for students: ChicagoCAC is working with CPS to establish a rapid referral process to ChicagoCAC for students who are identified as possible victims of sexual abuse. ChicagoCAC prioritizes linking students to mental health services at the Center or one of its partner mental health providers. ChicagoCAC is also helping to connect families with staff who can provide case management and advocacy services.

Community Engagement: ChicagoCAC is leading a coalition of community providers who have expertise in trauma-informed care and work with CPS to provide mental health supports and to strengthen comprehensive sexual health education. This coalition is tasked with forming a more collaborative and comprehensive approach to improving trauma-informed practices at CPS.

Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) Collaboration: ChicagoCAC includes a representative from CPS on its multi-disciplinary leadership team to foster ongoing collaboration with the district. Multi-disciplinary team members — including representatives from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Chicago Police Department, and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office — are assisting CPS with training and response protocols related to abuse allegations.

Training: In order to train all CPS staff quickly and effectively, ChicagoCAC is combining in-person training with a customized webinar, as well as additional specialized training for CPS social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and crisis response team members, among others.

  • Training for all staff: ChicagoCAC is developing a training curriculum that principals will deliver to their staff that (1) clearly defines sexual abuse and misconduct, (2) reviews warning behaviors of sexual abuse (grooming), and (3) thoroughly explains mandated reporting responsibilities. The training will be customized to CPS’ needs and will include age-appropriate content.
  • Keeping Children Safe Webinar Training: ChicagoCAC is developing a professional, interactive webinar that includes instruction featuring videos of survivors and an exam that participants will be required to pass to confirm their understanding of their responsibilities to keep children safe.
  • Crisis response team training: ChicagoCAC is working with CPS to create a customized training for members of the district’s crisis management team about effectively supporting students when sexual abuse is reported. The training is based on recommendations from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).
  • Training for Specialized Positions: ChicagoCAC is providing specialized training for CPS social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and others on student recovery following sexual abuse and working with survivors of abuse.

 

Rigorous Background Checks

CPS has implemented the following steps to strengthen how we screen prospective employees as well as maintain the most up-to-date information for existing employees.

  • Prior to the 2018-19 school year, CPS rechecked the backgrounds of all current employees, coaches, volunteers, Local School Council members, and vendors . This measure guarantees that all adults who are regularly in schools have been evaluated through the stringent background check process that has been in place since 2012.
  • Moving forward, CPS will begin conducting background re-checks for active employees on a periodic basis. While the Illinois State Police, Chicago Police Department, and other agencies notify CPS when an existing employee is accused or convicted of a crime, this is not a perfect system. Ongoing background checks provide an additional avenue to learn about employees who are accused of or commit crimes after they’ve been hired.
  • By the 2018-19 school year, CPS established a centralized eligibility process for all athletic coaches and assistant coaches, whether volunteers or employees. This enabled the CPS’ Sports Administration Department to better ensure coaches are not only screened effectively, but are also trained prior to beginning coaching activities. CPS established additional processes and resources, beyond our background checks, that schools can use to effectively check candidates’ references. Reference checks provide an additional avenue to uncover allegations of abuse or disciplinary actions from prior jobs that are not reported in background checks, conducted by law enforcement and/or DCFS.

 

Awareness and Education Campaign

The district will implement a public awareness campaign in schools, district offices, and City of Chicago facilities to raise awareness of child abuse and the responsibilities of mandated reporters. This campaign is being developed and will be implemented during the 2018-19 school year. It will encourage all parties – students, employees, families, and members of the public – to report suspected abuse as well as educating students, parents, and community members about appropriate relationships and interactions between students and adults.

 

Investigations into Employee Misconduct

CPS is taking significant steps to strengthen its process for investigating alleged employee misconduct.

  • In June, CPS announced that it was transferring the responsibility of investigating allegations of sexual abuse committed by adults from the Law Department to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to ensure that these cases are investigated in a way that eliminates any perceived conflict of interest.
  • In addition to handling the investigation of all new allegations of abuse committed by adults, we’ve asked the OIG to review all sexual abuse cases involving students since at least 2000 and further back, as the cases warrant, to ensure victims receive proper support and any inappropriate actions by current staff are addressed. We will take any additional action necessary.
  • CPS will review its investigations into reports of sexual assault and misconduct allegations and take necessary steps to strengthen those processes.
  • CPS adjusted its policy and will begin immediately removing any employees who are accused of sexual abuse from schools pending the outcome of an investigation, rather than waiting to determine if credible evidence existed before removing employees.
  • In the standard investigation framework noted above, CPS will also evaluate whether there were warning signs that could have triggered an earlier investigation and the adequacy of the response of the school and Central Office when the incident became known.

 

Training and Guidance for Staff

CPS is updating employee training to ensure every employee fully understands their role in helping prevent crimes against students.

  • In June 2018, the Board of Education approved a revised Board Policy that requires all employees to report signs of predatory behavior. The policy requires
    • Reporting of grooming behaviors, a sign of potential future predatory acts; and
    • Reporting of inappropriately intimate relationships between staff and students.
  • During the 2018-19 school year, CPS will retrain all employees on their obligations as mandated reporters of any physical or sexual abuse of children— which is something that all CPS employees are trained on and attest to as a condition of their employment.
  • The district will implement a public awareness campaign in schools, district offices, and City of Chicago facilities to raise awareness of child abuse and the responsibilities of reporting suspected abuse. This campaign will be developed in the coming months and implemented during the 2018-19 school year.
  • During the 2018-19 school year, CPS will offer staff trainings on sexual harassment. This work will be carried out under the direction of a new district-wide Title IX officer, who will be responsible for evaluating all district initiatives and matters involving sexual discrimination and sexual misconduct.
  • Before the end of the calendar year, CPS will train all employees on appropriate interactions between adults and students.

 

Legislative Efforts

In addition to the significant process improvements and policy changes the district is committed to making, CPS is working with legislators in Springfield to make changes to state law that will help keep students safer in school in every district in the state. Several potential areas for improvements include:

Allowing CPS and other districts to more easily remove predators from classrooms and prevent re-traumatizing victims. 

  • Removing abusers from the school system often requires student victims to testify at a hearing in front of the alleged abuser. This has resulted in cases that are decided in favor of the alleged abuser because the victim declined to testify. Additional safeguards should be created to avoid re-traumatizing students by requiring them to testify before strangers and their alleged abuser.

Remove barriers to sharing information about predators.

  • Barriers should be removed to allow districts to more easily share discipline information about former employees so that people who pose a threat to students are not able to find work in a new district. Some of these barriers include provisions of the Personnel Records Review Act and Employment Records Review Act.

Use ISBE’s teacher licensure processes to better safeguard students.

  • ISBE’s educator licensure processes can be amended to incorporate additional vigilance in the protection of students, particularly during the license renewal period.

 

CPS’ Recent Efforts to Improve Safeguards for Students

Over the past several years, CPS has taken significant action to improve protections for students. CPS will not rest until the district is confident that all possible measures have been put in place to protect students.

 

Strengthening Background Checks

Below is a brief history of the improvements CPS has made to its background check process.

  • 2014: CPS began requiring coaches and other volunteers who are regularly in schools to pass a fingerprint-based criminal background check before volunteering at a school.
  • 2016: CPS began to check all prospective employees with DCFS for findings of child abuse or neglect.
  • 2017: CPS reached agreements with nearly all Chicago charter school networks to ensure prospective charter school employees’ background checks would be as rigorous as the checks CPS performs. State law allows charters to make this decision, and CPS cannot require them to use its process. CPS publishes a list of charters that have refused to adopt the district’s background checks.
  • 2017: CPS advised charter schools of employees who were previously dismissed from CPS for issues involving physical abuse.
  • 2017: CPS began requiring all vendor employees who have direct daily contact with CPS students to go through CPS’ criminal background adjudication and the DCFS check process, as opposed to using an independent process determined by the vendors.
  • 2018: The Board of Education approved a revised Board Policy that requires all employees to report signs of predatory behavior.
  • 2018: CPS forms The Office of Student Protections and Title IX
  • 2018: CPS re-running background checks on all employees, volunteers, coaches, LSC members, and vendors ahead of the 2018-19 school year.

 

Strengthening Investigations into Employee Misconduct

Below is a brief history of the improvements CPS has made to its process to investigate employee misconduct.

  • 2015: CPS established a Discipline Committee to review investigations and determine an appropriate disciplinary response.
    • In addition to Law Department attorneys, the committee includes education administrators, auditors, and Talent Office (HR) representatives. The purpose is to ensure that disciplinary decisions are not solely legal decisions, and that the employees’ conduct and the district’s course of action is viewed through multiple lenses to ensure the best possible judgment is reached to protect children.
  • 2018 Updates:
    • The district will transfer the responsibility of investigating allegations of sexual abuse from the Law Department to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to ensure that these cases are investigated in a way that eliminates any perceived conflict of interest.
    • In addition to handling the investigation of all allegations of student sexual abuse going forward, we’ve asked the OIG to review all sexual abuse cases involving students since at least 2000 and further back, as the cases warrant, to ensure victims receive proper support and any inappropriate actions by current staff are addressed. We will take any additional action necessary.
    • CPS will review its investigations into reports of sexual assault and misconduct allegations and take necessary steps to strengthen those processes.
    • CPS adjusted its policy and will begin immediately removing any employees who are accused of sexual abuse from schools pending the outcome of an investigation, rather than waiting to determine if credible evidence existed before removing employees.

 

Strengthening Training and Guidance for Staff

Below is a brief history of the improvements CPS has made to its background check process.

  • 2016: At the mandatory legal conference for all principals and administrators, CPS provided training sessions on recognizing behaviors indicative of physical and sexual abuse and the expectation that reference calls are conducted for all hires. Similar sessions are to be conducted annually every year moving forward.
  • 2016: The Departments of Safety & Security, Health & Wellness, and Law collaborated to develop a resource guide for principals that includes a response tree that can be consulted when incidents of sexual violence are reported.
  • 2017: CPS distributed guidance to principals on maintaining professional staff/student boundaries. The guidelines provide clarity and impose strict conditions on electronic communication, interactions with students, travel, and reporting requirements. The guidelines can be found at bit.ly/cpsstaffguidance.
  • 2018 Updates:
    • In June 2018, the Board of Education approved a revised Board Policy that requires all employees to report signs of predatory behavior. The policy requires
      • Reporting of grooming behaviors, a sign of potential future predatory acts; and
      • Reporting of inappropriately intimate relationships between staff and students.
  • During the 2018-19 school year, CPS will retrain all employees on their obligations as mandated reporters of any physical or sexual abuse of children— which is something that all CPS employees are trained on and attest to as a condition of their employment.
  • The district will implement a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of child abuse and the responsibilities of reporting suspected abuse. This campaign will be developed in the coming months and implemented during the 2018-19 school year.

 

 

Page Last Modified on Tuesday, August 28, 2018