CPS removes 12 Marine Leadership Academy staff members, volunteer after sex misconduct investigation

ByDiane Pathieu, Leah Hope, and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, November 19, 2021
12 Marine Leadership Academy staff removed after sex misconduct probe
Chicago Public Schools has removed 12 staff and a volunteer at Marine Leadership Academy after an investigation into sexual misconduct

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools said Friday it has removed 12 employees and a volunteer from Marine Leadership Academy who have been accused in a sexual misconduct investigation.

The investigation alleges that several of the accused had inappropriate relationships with students while others are accused of covering it up.

Twelve staff members, including teachers, and one volunteer are accused of committing or covering up sexual misconduct dating back to 2016.

CPS now says all of the staffers have been removed from the school, and 10 of those adults have been fired or are in the process of being dismissed.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez announced the findings of an investigation, revealing what he called a "distrust" that occurred at Marine Leadership Academy.

"Unfortunately, some of these relationships appear to have been tolerated or even covered up by other adults who had vowed to protect our children," Martinez said.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses an Inspector General report into inapprpriate relastionships between CPS staff and students.

The investigation came from an anonymous call made in 2019 about inappropriate sexual misconduct between staff members and students.

At least two teachers are alleged to have had relationships with two students, other staff members are accused of knowing and not reporting the behavior. There are also reports of sexual harassment between a teacher and a student.

Martinez also claimed there were several cases involving grooming students for future relationships by staff members and waiting for the student to turn 18 to begin a sexual relationship.

"One had a sexual relationship with a student," Martinez said. "One groomed a student and began a sexual relationship with the student immediately after the student graduated. One sexually harassed and retaliated against a student. One groomed a student and crossed the boundaries with others. Six failed to report and actively hid suspected violations."

Martinez said as soon as the allegations were made in 2019, the staff members were pulled from the school, but because of legal loopholes, they remained on the payroll.

"We have a sworn duty to protect children in our care, to act with integrity," Martinez said. "So to uncover a culture among several Marine staff, this flies in the face of these values and it extremely disappointing, to put it mildly."

According to Martinez, the former principal at Marine Leadership Academy, Erin Galfer who allegedly knew about the misconduct, was even promoted to a central office position and she was only recently terminated.

"The behavior uncovered by this investigation represents a stunning betrayal of trust and a colossal failure in judgement and character on the part of far too many individuals," Martinez said. "Every student deserves to feel safe, protected and supported in their school. And anything that gets in that way should not be tolerated and will not be tolerated."

The allegations were made in 2019, but the district was not aware of the nature of these allegations until last month. One of the reasons for the delay, Martinez said, was insufficient staffing and a backlog of cases.

A letter went out to CPS's parents letting them know about the investigation, the allegations and that there will be support for students if they need it.

Parents said Friday they had heard about the allegations and hope things are better moving forward.

"It's a big concern and I hope they work something out, because it's a big mess," parent Yuri Leyva said.

"It is a concern, but it is bigger than what had happened," parent Patricia Balladares said.

The full official inspector general report will be released to CPS officials Friday.