The Chicago Public Schools Internal Watchdog noted a “worrying trend” of individual schools conducting their own investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct between adults and students before reporting district officials.
During a presentation to the Board of Education on Wednesday, Deputy Inspector General Amber Nesbitt said her office has seen an increase in the number of district schools, charter schools and vendors launching investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct without contacting the inspector. general or the CPS office of student protections and title IX.
“Not only is this contrary to CPS training, but it can also undermine or complicate our work,” said Nesbitt.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) – which investigates cases of sexual abuse and misconduct between adults and students – is aware of 13 similar cases, according to Nesbitt, who said it could make investigations more difficult if students or their parents are first interviewed by the school and do not want to be interviewed a second or third time after the OIG has been informed.
Nesbitt said his office and the Office of Student Protections are working to identify these schools and better train staff so these incidents can be avoided in the future.
The OIG has also seen a pattern of charter networks violating required background check procedures for vendors by relying on vendor companies to conduct background checks.
Charter networks should conduct these checks. By allowing vendors to do this, employees who have a “don’t hire” designation from the district can fly under the radar and continue working in charter schools.
In one case, Nesbitt said his office identified a charter school that had hired employees from vendors who were the subject of an ongoing OIG investigation and had a “long” criminal record.
“It’s not clear if they were ever background checked or if the charter network never verified that something was actually done by the vendor,” he said.
CPS officials said several district offices are working together to create a process to centrally audit vendor employees, rather than relying only on charter networks to do so.
During Wednesday’s presentation, Nesbitt said his office has made significant progress on its existing caseload, closing 307 cases from July 2022 through the end of the year. It’s increased from 128 during the same period in 2021 and 52 during that period in 2020.
The OIG also received 195 new complaints in the last six months of 2022, 65% of which were classified as “related to others,” which Nesbitt described as allegations that aren’t necessarily sexual, but can involve worrying, malicious or creepy.
There were also 24 complaints of contact that was classified as “less than sexual abuse” and eight complaints of actual sexual abuse.
As of December 31, 2022, 32 CPS staff had been withdrawn from schools on payroll in connection with an ongoing OIG investigation. This includes 17 teachers. And in the last six months of 2022, 11 people under investigation by the OIG have resigned, retired or been fired.
Nesbitt said her office recently set up a specialized team of investigators to handle cases involving teachers who have been suspended after recognizing “the disruption this can cause to the district.”
Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431