By: Caitlin Brown
The Boston Globe “Spotlight” team gained journalistic fame and notoriety for their examination of sexual abuse within the city’s Catholic churches; in an explosive turn of events, the Chicago Tribune accomplished something similar this summer in revealing the rampant sexual abuse and misconduct perpetuated throughout the Chicago public school system. The investigative findings, a culmination of police reports and public and confidential reports, was updated July 27th but initially posted on June 1st and detailed the experiences of students who were assaulted and dismissed within CPS. The Tribune states that their findings suggest that hundreds of students were victims of sexual misconduct or assault throughout CPS.
An interactive map reveals the prevalence of the issue within the city, reaching across boundaries of neighborhood and thus eliminating any of the easy arguments that the issue could be limited to more criminally-rampant or economically devastated parts of Chicago. Truly, the heart-wrenching stories of the victims, many of them young, successful leaders within their schools, demonstrate the ubiquitously systematic nature of the issue.
In response to the media backlash, on August 16th, CPS published a 99-page preliminary report on their investigation into the issue. The report “showed systemic deficiencies in training, reporting, aggregating data, tracking trends, and comprehending the extent of the sexual misconduct facing CPS children” and found that, “While there were policies and procedures about sexual misconduct on the books, employees were not consistently trained on them, and there were no mechanisms to ensure that they were being uniformly implemented or to evaluate their effectiveness.”
The report hypothesizes the potential sources of the issue and provides notes on the ways that CPS plans to address the issue, including training, external evaluation, the creation of a new office to investigate sexual misconduct allegations–the CPS Office of Student Protections and Title IX.
As a victim of sexual harassment and assault by a school faculty member (though not in CPS), I remain bothered by the lack of attention the issue has received. Though the CPS report was only released at the beginning of the current academic semester, attention and investigation into the complete, systemic failure of the organization to protect its students has dwindled significantly. Just last week, CPS updated its hiring page for a new Title IX officer (one of many online hiring posts for this position). Here, I’ll voice my doubts: Is the problem truly fixed?
Unlike the thousands of students whose stories of sexual assault have been shared this past summer, I experienced sexual assault and the exhausting, drawn-out Title IX battles as an adult–I have no conception of the difficulties that these students faced, and may continue to face, as young teenagers who will be stigmatized for both their silence and their protest.
With Pritzker’s recent appointment and the mayoral election approaching, now is the opportunity to demand more from the city’s leaders–your advocacy and action is desperately needed.