Chicago Public Schools Inspector General Nicholas Schuler has been tasked with investigating sex abuse allegations by students.
Schuler requested, and said he’s ready, to take on the immense task.
As an independent watchdog, Schuler took over the investigation after a recent Chicago Tribune investigation that reported hundreds of CPS students throughout the district who have been sexually abused by CPS employees during the past decade. In some cases, student complaints were ignored by teachers and principals.
Previously, the Chicago Public Schools’ Law Department, which also defends CPS in sex abuse lawsuits, investigated. To avoid a conflict of interest, the responsibility is now being shifted to Schuler.
“Our office seems like the natural fit to take over. That’s why I wrote that letter to (CPS Board President) Frank Clark last week,” Schuler said.
Clark responded by not only moving sex abuse investigations from the Law Department, but also directing Schuler’s office to review older abuse investigations dating back to 2000, and further, if needed.
“Nothing is more important than creating a safer school district for our students and we will not rest until that work is complete,” Clark said.
Clark said this means giving the inspector general the resources his office needs, no matter what the cost.
“We’re talking a fair amount of people and a fair amount of resources to get this done,” said Schuler, who was already busy and understaffed.
After the Tribune report, CPS unveiled a comprehensive plan to address the complaints. Other previously announced changes include random background checks for current employees and hiring a former assistant U.S. attorney to review the districts policies, procedures and practices.
“This is not just about ferreting out bad actors, but we also have an opportunity to create a culture at CPS that does not allow this to continue to happen,” said CPS CEO Janice Jackson.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) said it’s going to take more than an inspector general takeover of abuse complaints.
“Are there front line workers, who can hear students when they raise complaints, people who provide services to students, are they adequately trained?” asked Jesse Sharkey, vice president of CTU.