'The proof is here': Lawsuit claims CPS teacher used ruler to hit students with special needs

ByJessica D'Onofrio and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Thursday, March 16, 2023
'The proof is here': Lawsuit claims CPS teacher used ruler to hit students with special needs
Several families filed a lawsuit against CPS claiming a teacher at Whistler Elementary School hit students with special needs.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parents of special needs children are taking Chicago Public Schools to court.

The group just filed a lawsuit, claiming physical and mental abuse by a CPS teacher and principal.

Eight families are involved in the lawsuit. Four of the families spoke at a news conference Thursday morning.

The accusations here are quite.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday against CPS and two unnamed educators claims that a long-time teacher at Whistler Elementary School on the Far South Side mentally and physically abused several students in her classroom with the support and knowledge of the principal and possibly others.

The teacher accused of this abuse has been with CPS for about 20 years.

Attorneys said the students involved range from five to eight years old, and have various developmental and physical challenges. Some are non-verbal.

The lawsuit claims the teacher would hit the children with wooden rulers and threaten physical harm when they had difficulty completing an assignment or a task.

Some parents said when they saw marks on their child and questioned what was going on, they were told by the teacher and the principal that their children were clumsy or had fallen.

"I trusted CPS, the principal, administrators to protect my child and they all have failed her," said parent, Candace Bowen.

Some of the parents describing the horror of the situation as they saw their children's behavior change in recent months.

"My daughter has problems communicating. One day she came home from school last October and I was concerned she had been sexually abused," said parent Pearl King.

Many parents said that their children have been traumatized.

"Since attending CPS, my daughter's behavior has changed for the worse," one parent said. "She has begun having violent tantrums, throwing herself around, pulling out her own hair and banging her head on the floor."

"He would cry as soon as we pulled up to the school and he didn't want to go in," added fellow parent, Julie Hagan.

It's unclear if a criminal investigation is underway. However, attorneys for the families said the allegations came to light in February and that a whistleblower was involved.

Attorneys said they have video and audio of the alleged abuse that they believe went on for many years.

ABC7 has chosen not to air that audio because it's difficult to listen to, but it was played during a news conference Friday morning as the parents broke down in tears as they listened to it.

Attorneys for the parents also shared photos with ABC7, which they said they show the extent of some of the children's injuries caused by the teacher.

"The proof is here," said attorney Victor Henderson. "Will they give the children the counseling they need? Will they apologize to these parents and others out there like them who have had their children at Whistler?"

Attorneys also said they contacted DCFS and CPS about the situation immediately, and the teacher was removed from the classroom soon after.

"How could something like this in this classroom, in this school, for such an extended period of time and no one speak up, which makes us think people were afraid to speak up," attorney Victor Henderson said.

The attorneys have been told the teacher was removed from the classroom in the last month but parents are disappointed with how they say the school and district handled their complaints about the situation.

CPS released a statement Thursday morning saying: "Chicago Public Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of our students and takes seriously all allegations of employee misconduct. CPS investigates and addresses all complaints in accordance with District policies and procedures."

They also said they don't comment on pending litigation.

"I want the teacher who was involved to go to jail," Hagan said.

The parents said the teacher's removal has already provided some instant relief to their children as this difficult process plays out in coming months.