Chicago Public Schools falsely accused some teachers who are leaving the district of neglecting or abusing children, according to letters obtained by WBEZ that were sent by the district to the Illinois State Board of Education.
The letters, which were sent out earlier this month, accused some teachers who had resigned or were dismissed of “committing misconduct that may include committing an intentional act of child abuse or neglect,” but at least one teacher told WBEZ those accusations were untrue. That teacher said they had planned to resign at the end of the year for reasons that had nothing to do with misconduct.
A spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, also known as ISBE, said the letters are being ignored.
“There was a misunderstanding between ISBE and CPS about what we needed regarding educator misconduct,” said spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews in a statement. “We have resolved the confusion, and ISBE is disregarding the letters.”
Matthews said she did not know how many teachers had received the letters or how many had contacted the state board.
The letters were sent to former CPS employees by Mary Ernesti, the district’s director of employee engagement, and were mailed out during the first week of July. A little over a week later, Ernesti sent a second letter to the state board, explaining that the teachers in question were in fact not dismissed due to allegations of child abuse or neglect. Those letters were also sent to the former teachers.
A spokesman for CPS did not return multiple requests for comment.
These false allegations come as CPS grapples with the fallout of an explosive Chicago Tribune investigation that found district officials failed to protect students from sexual abuse and harassment. In one instance, a 16-year-old athlete at Simeon Career Academy said she was raped 40 times by her coach, who was eventually arrested.
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor for WBEZ. You can follow him at @whuntah.