WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Lifeguards Investigated For Sexual Abuse

Lifeguard sign at a pool
An alleged incident of sexual misconduct involving lifeguards occurred at the Jefferson Park pool in 2018. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Lifeguard sign at a pool
An alleged incident of sexual misconduct involving lifeguards occurred at the Jefferson Park pool in 2018. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Lifeguards Investigated For Sexual Abuse

Hey there! It’s Tuesday, and I’m thinking about air conditioning. Here’s what you need to know today.

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1. Chicago Park District investigating claims of widespread sexual harassment and assault among lifeguards

The Chicago Park District is conducting a “broad investigation” into complaints that dozens of workers at the city’s pools and beaches regularly committed “sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, workplace violence, and other criminal acts” — sometimes against minors, WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos reports.

Confidential documents obtained by WBEZ show investigators have already gathered evidence corroborating accusations against three male lifeguards so far. Two of the men no longer work at the park district. The inspector general recommended the third be fired.

Investigators reported a veteran lifeguard likely “committed criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse” against a 16-year-old female lifeguard, according to the documents.

In another case, investigators concluded that an Aquatics Department employee sexually harassed “two junior female lifeguards” and later “sexually attacked” each of them in public swimming pool locker rooms.

Investigators described a third parks employee as “a manipulative serial sexual harasser who abused his position as a Park District supervisor to satisfy some sort of sexual desire while simultaneously protecting his job.”

The park district would not answer questions about the scope of the investigation or their response to the allegations. A spokeswoman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to comment. [WBEZ]

2. CDC says fully vaccinated people can go outside without a mask

Tired of sweating under your mask? Good news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today that fully vaccinated people can uncover their face when outside — except around large crowds of strangers like at concerts or sporting events.

The updated guidance also says those who haven’t yet received the vaccine can go maskless when walking, running or biking alone, or with people in their household. But unvaccinated people should still wear masks at outdoor restaurants, while the CDC says it’s OK for those fully vaccinated to go without face coverings. [AP]

Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s top public health official, said today that the city will follow the CDC guidelines, and will “share some more details as it relates to some of the dining recommendations in days to come.” [City of Chicago]

The CDC announcement comes as Illinois is experiencing a drop in the average number of vaccines being administered each day. Yesterday, Gov. JB Pritzker said the state’s supply of shots could soon exceed demand. [Chicago Tribune]

So far, 45% of Illinois residents have gotten one vaccine dose and about 29% of the population is now fully vaccinated. [NYT]

And the virus is still spreading. State public health officials today reported 2,556 new COVID-19 cases and 22 more deaths. [WBEZ]

3. Poll: A quarter of women say they’re financially worse off a year into the pandemic

Women and people of color are more likely to say they’re financially worse off now than before COVID-19 shutdowns, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds. Overall, about 1 in 5 Americans say their finances are worse now than in March 2020, and more than 6 in 10 say they’re about the same.

Around 25% of women say their family’s finances are worse off, compared to 18% of men, according to the survey. Among people of color, 27% say they are worse off now compared to 18% of white people.

What accounts for the disparities? One explanation is that women and workers of color were far more likely to lose their jobs as the pandemic unfolded. And those groups were more likely to take on additional child care duties at home as daycares closed and schools moved to remote learning, the Post reports. [Washington Post]

4. Biden to establish $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal contractors

President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order today that will require federal contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $15 an hour starting March 30 of next year, NPR reports.

The move, which will impact hundreds of thousands of people, underscores Democrats’ push to raise the federal minimum wage. [NPR]

The administration also moved today to make Buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, more widely available as overdose deaths surge. [NPR]

Meanwhile, Biden is set to unveil his American Families Plan in an address tomorrow to Congress. The proposal, which is expected to include funding for child care, paid leave and community colleges, will likely face resistance from Republicans — and possibly some Democrats. [NPR]

5. Police killings of Black Americans amount to crimes against humanity, report finds

A group of international human rights experts recently released a 188-page report calling for the U.S. to be held accountable for police violence against Black residents. The group said some incidents rise to the level of “crimes against humanity.”

Pointing to what they call “police murders” and “severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution and other inhuman acts” against the Black community, the commission is calling on the international criminal court to launch an investigation into the alleged violations of international law.

However, the U.S. does not recognize the jurisdiction of the international court, so it’s unclear what impact a potential inquiry would have. [The Guardian]

Meanwhile, a Washington Post review finds civilian oversight of law enforcement is often undermined by police and politicians. [Washington Post]

Here’s what else is happening

  • So long, Lester Holt? The Illinois Supreme Court has a new jury orientation video. [Chicago Sun-Times]

  • West Virginia will pay young people $100 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. [NPR]

  • Spotify is launching a new subscription platform for podcasts. [Axios]

  • Adrenaline junkies, rejoice! Six Flags is now open with reduced capacity limits. [Chicago Tribune]

Oh, and one more thing …

Chicago’s favorite couple has returned to the Windy City — and no, I don’t mean the Obamas.

Monty and Rose, a pair of endangered piping plover birds, are back at Montrose Beach for a third season. Rose was first spotted on Sunday, setting off a scramble among birders to confirm her identity based on a unique leg band.

“There was a lot of excitement, a lot of back and forth,” Mark Kolasa said. “Get someone out there with a scope, now!”

Monty arrived the next day, but it’s yet to be seen whether last year’s chicks — Nish, Hazel and Esperanza — will make the estimated 2,000-mile journey back to the city. [Chicago Tribune]

And there’s another rare bird in town: A wild turkey was spotted in LaBagh Woods on the Northwest Side last weekend. [Block Club Chicago]

Tell me something good …

Next Monday marks the 50th anniversary of NPR’s All Things Considered. To celebrate, I want to know: What’s your favorite NPR memory?

Joyce Miller Bean writes:

“My favorite NPR moment was hearing ‘The Squirrel Cop’ on Ira Glass’ This American Life. How a simple squirrel removal from a young couple’s home by a young cop turns into an absolute debacle is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. To this day, I cannot listen to ‘The Squirrel Cop’ without laughing out loud.”

Karen Bowen writes:

“Susan Stamberg reading her mother’s cranberry relish recipe makes each Thanksgiving memorable for me. It has sour cream and horseradish in it and is not exactly a family favorite. But they don’t really like cranberries anyway.”

And Michael Cogan writes:

“I was driving from the train station to my home, and NPR was broadcasting Malcolm X’s ‘The Ballot or the Bullet’ speech. When I parked in the driveway I sat listening to the speech for an extra 10-15 minutes. It was exposure to a really powerful historical voice that I did not previously understand nor appreciate.”

What’s an NPR moment that sticks out to you? Feel free to email or tweet us, and we might share your responses here this week.

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