The inspector general for Chicago Public Schools will be taking over all future investigations into sexual misconduct against students, as well as reviewing all cases since 2000.
CPS Board of Education President Frank Clark announced that the law department will no longer have purview over these cases. The official transfer of duties will be voted on at the June Board of Education meeting.
Clark said he wants Inspector General Nick Schuler to recommend corrective action in past cases, suggesting that staff who ignored protocols could face discipline.
“I expect that Nick will come back with precise recommendations, which we will act upon,” Clark said.
Clark and CEO Janice Jackson also pledged the school district will “provide the appropriate resources” so that Schuler’s office can do the job.
The announcement comes a week after the Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago Public Schools had quietly looked into hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct over the past decade.
The Tribune found that, in some cases, CPS staff didn’t take appropriate steps to prevent abuse, ignoring criminal background checks or failing to take the required step of reporting the abuse to the state Department of Children and Family Services.
The Tribune also pointed out that having the law department investigate sexual misconduct presents a conflict of interest if someone sues over the incident. In one case, the law department used information gathered in an investigation against a victim in her civil suit.
Schuler had asked for this responsibility last week. In a letter to Clark, he wrote that he thought it was inappropriate for the law department to simultaneously investigate cases and also have the responsibility of protecting the school district.
“That morass of competing interests makes it impossible to tell whether the law department is working for the student victims or trying to limit the district’s legal exposure,” he said.
Moving the cases to the inspector general’s office will likely make the scope of the situation more transparent. The Chicago Tribune had difficulty getting a handle on the number of cases. But Schuler’s office submits an annual report to the Board of Education by Jan.1.
Now, he will detail the sexual abuse cases his office investigates and what investigators found.
Jackson also announced today the school district launched a website detailing how it is addressing misconduct and instructing people to report abuse to DCFS.