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Chicago Charter Schools Hired 163 Public School Staffers Banned For Misconduct, Including Sexual Abuse

More than 160 staff barred from Chicago Public Schools, including three for sexual abuse, four for drugs or alcohol violations, and nearly two dozen for physically abusing students, found work in city charter schools, according to a CPS inspector general report released Tuesday.

The IG said the charters apparently were unaware these employees had been banned by CPS. The school district hadn’t shared this employment information with city charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. IG Nicholas Schuler delivered his findings to CPS in June. On Tuesday, he reported that CPS took action and three employees cited for sexual abuse had been fired or ousted.

This includes an elementary teacher fired for sexually abusing two students at his home and inappropriately touching a third student during class, according to the report. It’s not clear if any legal action was taken against this teacher.

But most of the other employees remained employed at one of the district’s charter schools or at a handful of city contract schools. All told, the 163 banned employees worked for one of 33 charter or contract school operators as of December 2016. Four operators employed 11 to 27 individuals who had been banned from CPS. The schools and individuals were not named by the inspector general.

CPS told the IG it is developing a systematic way to communicate its “Do Not Hire” labels to charter schools and that it wants to do background checks for charter schools, according to the report.

The school district hopes to have a framework in a place for some charter schools by the end of the year, the report said. CPS was first informed about this issue by the inspector general’s office in June 2016. The IG notes that CPS was concerned about what kind of information it could share with non-CPS schools.

Because charter schools are privately run, CPS cannot force them to bar former CPS employees. The main way to influence charter hiring is by adding a provision to the contracts that charters sign with the school district to allow Do Not Hire information to be shared.

"Just because someone may or may not have a Do Not Hire, does not mean they can necessarily never be hired," Schuler said. “They may have overcome whatever obstacles they had. The main goal here is to get a process in place by which charters can be in the position to determine whether it is material or not to the hiring decision."

Schuler said it is important for CPS to get ahead of this issue. Ultimately, these are public school students interacting with these staff, he said.

The report notes that Do Not Hire labels are for a variety of offenses. The most common is incompetence, followed by breaking school rules and physical abuse or corporal punishment.

Seven charter administrators and managers were banned for theft, misappropriation of funds, fiscal mismanagement, or waste of funds. Other offenses include residency violations, job application fraud, employee attendance, and verbal abuse. The 163 banned employees represent about 2 percent of all charter and contract school employees.

Schuler said that charter schools should have information about the source of the Do Not Hire to help decide whether to hire the prospective employee.

This issue came to light after the IG began investigating attendance fraud at four high schools in Chicago. Some of the employees cited in that investigation and for other fraud had left CPS to work at charter schools. The attendance fraud investigation was prompted in part by reporting by Kate Grossman, who is currently senior editor for education at WBEZ.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

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