Adult education classes held in Chicago Public Schools will resume next semester, City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado said Thursday during the colleges’ monthly board meeting.
“It’s a huge relief,” said Patrick Brosnan, executive director of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. Several schools in that community offered classes that were discontinued. “A lot of our family members, a lot of people enrolled in the programs, they need these free services.”
The adult education classes were abruptly canceled this summer after Chicago Public Schools instituted a new background check process for adults who were in school buildings on a regular basis. The checks came after the Chicago Tribune reported that the school district had investigated hundreds of reports of sexual abuse and harassment in the schools in recent years and had failed to protect students.
City Colleges relocated six of the 28 classes impacted by the change, but the rest were canceled.
“Although City Colleges did try to offer those classes at their own site, it becomes a lot harder for parents to make the trip over there,” said Vicky Cambray with Enlace Chicago, a neighborhood group. She spoke to WBEZ at a rally last month where parents urged CPS to change its policy.
There was concern the background checks would affect the privacy of adult learners. And some neighborhood groups and residents worried the background checks could be used to deport undocumented parents or adult learners coming into school buildings.
“Student safety is really important, obviously, but family safety is equally important,” Brosnan said. “We want to make sure our neighborhood and our schools are places where people are safe to come and be educated. Giving your name, effectively, and your fingerprints and address, it makes the opposite true.”
Starting next semester, adult educators will need to be fingerprinted but adult learners will face a stepped down background check.
They must give their name and date of birth to check against public sex offender registries and CPS “do not hire” lists, but they do not need to be fingerprinted, according to City Colleges. If they don’t want to go through this process, they can register at another adult education site.
Brosnan says this could have been prevented if CPS had reached out to parents and community groups before changing its policy.
“These are, I believe to be, unintended consequences of these policy changes that CPS underwent,” he said. “We could’ve flagged this and said, ‘Hey, this is a concern.’ Had we been engaged earlier in the thought process here, this could’ve been avoided.”
WBEZ reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad contributed to this report.