The watchdog for Chicago Public Schools vows his office will collect enough evidence to fire and dole out other disciplinary measures against employees connected to the shocking sex abuse scandal within the school district. And he says he won’t stop there.
“Investigations will be conducted where the evidence leads,” said CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler on Morning Shift Wednesday. “People will be assured that … things just won’t stop once there’s enough evidence to fire somebody or get them off the books. The evidence will be followed fully to the end. … An independent investigator’s better situated to ask those tough questions and keep pursuing them.”
The Chicago Board of Education later this month is expected to vote on giving the inspector general’s office the authority to investigation sexual abuse allegations, which are currently handled by the district’s law department, an arrangement that critics say creates a conflict of interest because the law department defends CPS against lawsuits.
The switch comes after an explosive Chicago Tribune investigation found that ineffective background checks left students vulnerable to abuse and CPS faculty often failed to alert authorities to sexual misconduct allegations.
Schuler talked to Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia about the sex abuse allegations and how prepared his office is to tackle these investigations. Below are some interview highlights.
When he read the Tribune’s investigation
CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler: It’s shocking. The thing that I think my office can most squarely contribute is [providing] independent investigations. And I think that will help people — families, students, the children — have assurance that these investigations are being conducted by somebody who is not also the same people who have to worry about defending the district in liability.
Does he have the resources to take on sexual harassment investigations?
Schuler: It’s categorically no today. There’s absolutely no way we can take any of this on, and I made that clear to [Chicago Board of Education] President Frank Clark, to [CPS CEO] Dr. Janice Jackson, and they’ve committed resources, you know, broadly. They said they’ve committed the resources we need. We have not had any brass tacks discussions about that, and that’s the part of this that concerns me.
I believe they’re honest when they say we’ll get the resources that we need. That needs to come through at the end of the day. Because for us to take this on right now, it would put a halt to our regular operations. I’ve made that clear that is not an acceptable outcome.
What would happen after an investigation is completed?
Schuler: We can make findings and we can make recommendations to the [Chicago Board of Education], and they can act on them or not. So that’s kinda standard [inspector general] practices. We make findings and recommendations. We go to great pains to explain our reasoning, show our evidence, and write as convincing reports to the board as we can and try to compel them to believe our reports and take action.
But at the end of the day, the board could ignore what we say.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.