(The Center Square) – The Chicago Public Schools department charged with investigating sexual misconduct received 470 complaints in fiscal year 2022, a number described as “an extraordinary high case volume.”
The report details the findings of the 30-member Sexual Allegations Unit of the Office of Inspector General and was released this week. It details several of the allegations made in 2022. The Sexual Allegations Unit was created in October 2018 and investigates every allegation it receives, according to the report.
The complaints varied from a vendor custodian who stared and stuck out his tongue at two 8th-grade girls and looked into the girls’ bathroom after the students had entered, to a teacher who groomed and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl three times.
In its four years, the unit has opened 1,735 cases of sexual misconduct. The report stated at least 16 criminal charges have been filed against school-district affiliated adults for sex-related crimes by prosecutors.
“While the volume of allegations and the number of substantiated cases of sexual misconduct understandably causes concern within the District and impacted school communities, there is no indication that the frequency of these occurrences is higher within CPS than in other districts nationwide,” the report stated. “The SAU is not only the sole centralized K–12 investigative unit in the country to handle such a broad range of allegations, it is also the only entity that issues public reports on its complaint volume and outcomes, and summarizes its substantiated findings. As such, reliable statistics from other school districts are simply not available.”
The Office of Inspector General report stated that many of the 470 sexual misconduct cases it opened in 2022 “would not be addressed at all in other school districts, or would be triaged to school staff or administrators, district officers, or third parties for handling depending on the severity of the allegation and available resources.”
The report cites several examples of sexual misconduct cases in 2022. There were 81 allegations classified as “touching, less than sexual abuse”; 35 identified as “grooming”; 33 allegations labeled as “sexual abuse.” There were 243 allegations labeled as “concerning.”
In one example, a high school physical education teacher sent pornographic videos of his genital area to an 11th grade female student when they were alone in a driver’s education trailer near the school. The student reported the incident to two other staff members within days of the occurrence. However, the two staff members did not notify the school administration and instead “made excuses for the teacher,” according to the report.
“One of them said that the conduct was probably unintentional and that he did not believe the teacher would sexually harass a student because he had a daughter of his own,” the report stated. “The other staff member blamed the student for wearing provocative clothing, implying that she brought the problem on herself.”
The two staff members also tipped off the teacher about the student’s complaint. The frustrated student then posted her complaint on social media and another student who was 15 years old came forward with a similar charge of sexual misconduct against the teacher. That second student sent videos and photos of the teacher performing sexual acts to the Office of Inspector General that corroborated the allegations, the report stated.
That teacher resigned and faced criminal charges.
Another complaint included a vendor who was not a school district employee who called a fourth-grade girl “sexy” and was pulled from active duty and had his file “flagged.”
The school district released a statement about the report.
“Chicago Public Schools greatly values our partnership with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and we support the work to investigate all issues of misconduct among our 40,000 team members,” Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Mary Fergus said in an email. “As a District, we take seriously our responsibility to serve our families with integrity and to address individuals who breach CPS policies and the public’s trust and hold them accountable. CPS will continue to ensure our District policies and procedures support the highest ethical standards to ensure our valued team members act in the best interest of our students.”