CPS Inspector General Report Details Sexual Misconduct

A new report by Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nick Schuler details disturbing cases of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior inside the schools. WBEZ
A new report by Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nick Schuler details disturbing cases of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior inside the schools. WBEZ

CPS Inspector General Report Details Sexual Misconduct

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A Chicago Public Schools principal is accused of having nonconsensual sex with a teacher and creating a hostile work environment for her.

That is just among a long list of sexual misconduct cases that the school district’s inspector general details in his annual report, released Monday.

The teacher reported the incident to police and the principal resigned before the inspector general could complete his investigation. The inspector general does not provide names of offenders in his report.

Of the 2,175 complaints received by Inspector General Nick Schuler’s office over the past year, more than 400 had to do with sexual misconduct. The inspector general’s office started handling sexual abuse cases a year ago and a half ago, after a Chicago Tribune investigation found the school district regularly mishandled allegations.

Schuler said it has been a challenge balancing the work. His office was given 30 extra staff positions, but is still trying to fill them all.

“It has been a huge undertaking,” Schuler said. He said the office is taking a “pretty cautious approach” to cases.

Chicago Public Schools officials released a statement saying they appreciate what the inspector general does “as we work to ensure all employees and operations are held to the highest standards of integrity.”

In addition to the sexual misconduct cases, his office also received a wide range of other complaints, from staff lying about living in Chicago to fraudulent leaves of absence. CPS staff are required to live in the city.

Investigators were able to look into about 40% of them.

Among the issues highlighted in the report are troubles connected to the school district’s preschool program. The inspector general found a private vendor failed to collect payments that were due to the tuition-based preschool programs. It also found that some CPS staff under-reported their income so they could pay less for preschool services.

All together, at least $2 million was not collected, including full payments by 140 CPS employees, according to the inspector general.

The inspector general takes the school district to task for not providing proper oversight of the private vendor hired to collect the preschool payments. CPS officials point out the school district is implementing universal preschool for 4-year-olds, which will eventually lead to less tuition-based preschool.

Also, one principal allowed some staff to wrongly take advantage of free preschool programs. At that elementary school, which offered morning and afternoon sessions of preschool, staff had their children attend both, though that is prohibited. Because the children were only enrolled in one session, they essentially got free preschool services they weren’t entitled to.

Another issue highlighted in the report is mislabeling by staff of hundreds of absent students as “lost.” The students were dropped from the attendance rolls. When those students showed up again, they were re-enrolled.

Also, several staff were disciplined by CPS for violating the school district’s new policy forbidding staff from communicating with students via text or social media. While much of this correspondence was not sexual, the policy was put in place out of concern that personal contact between staff and students could lead to inappropriate behavior.

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